While the study of the Talmud is not yet an officially recognized form of psychiatric therapy, it is already playing a highly effective role in the Day Care Unit of Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Centre’s Mental Health Wing.
A room in the Unit has been designated as a Bet Midrash, a study hall. In a world first, psychiatric patients from the orthodox community are encouraged to immerse themselves in the Talmud study they have known since childhood.
Each day, a specially trained rabbinical tutor conducts Talmud classes that make the material accessible and understood by the patient-students. “The satisfaction the patients get from the studying is a major factor in their rehabilitation” report the therapeutic staff. Engaging with familiar study material helps patients feel more connected to the wider society.
The Bet Midrash teachers use a variety of participatory and interactive teaching methods. they also test the students – patients regulary on their understanding of the material. When they complete a Talmudic tractate, they celebrate in the traditional way by holding a Siyum. (a special party that marks the achievement.)
Professor Rael Strous, the hospital’s chief psychiatrist and medical director of the Mental Health Wing, says: “Even though the Bet Midrash is not an official treatment facility, we see that participation in the classes contributes enormously to the patients’ progress. I regard the Bet Midrash as one of the most remarkable achievements of the Day Care Unit, and I believe we are the only psychiatric facility in the world to offer this. The Mental Health Wing is committed to returning all mental health patients to their regular environment as soon as possible, and the provision of a Bet Midrash significantly facilitates this process.”
In the last week of November 2019, Professor Rael Strous, the South African-born medical director of Mayanei Hayeshua’s Mental Health Centre, and professor of psychiatry at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Medicine, was in London for a busy round of meetings and events organised by the British Friends of Mayanei Hayeshua.