A visiting psychologist from Israel shared these two stories “of positive pasts” at a summertime Cozy Shabbat from her many years of practice:
1) She had a religious patient in his 80’s who basically stopped talking. He lived with his family and shut down, virtually no communication, which was greatly upsetting to his family. She went in and tried talking to him, after all he used to be the gabbai of his synagogue and was quite an interactive person. But to no avail. Then she had an idea. She took a Tehillim and began to say and singsong the verses aloud in the same room. After a while he chimed in at this verse or that. He was very knowledgeable and knew many of the verses by heart. She did the same with Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs – which some Jews, including this older man – would say every Friday before Shabbat) and he got more into it, she kept doing it, at different sessions, with different Torah texts that he was very familiar with and slowly, gradually, he began to chime in more and more, ending by heart the verses she started, and eventually after much of this atypical therapy, he was speaking with his family again.
2) Once she met with a client and they were discussing family history. As things turned out this client woman’s father used to own a large carpentry shop in Kfar Saba. Really!? This psychologist was intrigued. She in turn told the lady her own family’s early origins in Israel. Her parents were well-to-do in Iraq but left with virtually nothing of their material wealth to come to Israel. At first they lived in a tent city in Kfar Saba, they had two little babies (one was this psychologist) and the father went off in the morning to look for work. He spoke little Hebrew, he was a brand new immigrant but he was good with his hands and did fine carpentry. So he looked about, and finally found a large carpentry shop and spoke with the owner. He told him: Don’t pay me anything. Just let me work here for a full day, and at the end of the day you will see if it is worth to hire me. He worked all day and did beautiful work. The owner hired him, and told him: you live quite a ways from here, so you will need a bicycle, and he gave him a bicycle. And you have small children who have needs, so he gave him some money to buy things for the kids. The mother, back in the tent city, was wondering what took so long with her husband, where he was all day, but then he came home riding in a bicycle, laden with food and things they needed! And so they got established in the land of Israel. This is the story she told the client. The client said, yes yes, my father told me that he tried be very helpful to the Iraqi Jewish immigrants in the tent cities when they first came…The client’s father was the psychologists father’s benefactor and first employer in Israel!