Two weeks ago I conducted in a workshop with my friend and holy brother, Rabbi Gershon Winkler. Intended for healthcare professionals, it was entitled, The Torah of Healing. In it, we explored the healing mystery using the languages of the medical science of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and that of Old Testament wisdom. We talked about how to create environments in which the balance between body and soul could be restored.
Gershon, ordained as an orthodox Rabbi, is the grandson of the Grand Rabbi of Denmark, whose father and two brothers are also Rabbis. He was initiated into Jewish mysticism by the late Kabbalist, Eliezer Benseon. Fluent in Aramaic and Hebrew, Reb Gershon teaches at colleges and spiritual retreat centers across the US, Canada, Europe and Israel.
I met him more than a decade ago, when he taught at a Jewish Renewal retreat. I sat in awe of his learning and irreverent borsht-belt comedic routine and dubbed him “Reb Gershon the Winkler.” He founded a retreat center, The Walking Stick Foundation (www.walkingstick.org.), in rural New Mexico, where he combined traditional Jewish spirituality with Native American and other Earth-honoring traditions. We liked each other, and he asked me to become a founding member of the board.
We had long talked about doing something together and finally coordinated our calendars and did it. It’s hard to describe the intensity of the experience except to say “you had to be there.” The flow was magical, and I could have listened to his stories the entire time. This was one of them:
Gershon spent time with a Navajo Roadman (a spiritual leader and healer). During a ceremony, he watched him take out a small vial and sprinkle a few drops on a patient. Later, he asked the Roadman what the stuff in the vial was that he sprinkled on the man. The Road Man said it was very powerful medicine and the subject was dropped. Gershon was camped near the Roadman’s house. When he awoke in the morning, he found himself surrounded by lots of kids who watched him as he washed up at the outside spigot. Filling his water bottle, he took a drink when The Road Man came up to him, took the water bottle, and poured out a few drops into a teaspoon. Holding the bottle in one hand, the teaspoon in the other, the Roadman looked at the bottle and said, “If you drink this when you’re thirsty, its water.” Then, looking at the teaspoon he said, “When you need it for healing, its medicine.”
Gershon said that, for the first time, he fully understood the ancient Talmudic wisdom which taught symbols only have meaning when what you bring to them supplies them with power. Healing is a partnership between the person being healed and the symbols that open up the channels for the healing to happen.
We told these stories in the language of Torah and the modern medical science of psychoneuroimmunology. We loved working together, and we’re going to do it again next year. You don’t have to be Hebrew-literate or even Jewish, to have appreciated this extraordinary event. It’ll happen again next year. Join us!