Me: This is your last mesima (assignment).
Me: Does it look like I can handle any more?
My second-grade son knew better than to respond. I open the document. Scan the questions. Pause at question #2.
Reread question #2.
“מה זה “ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה – מעבירין את רע הגזירה
What? No. Can’t be. Is he kidding? Wait. Maybe I read it wrong. Google translate.
Charlie: Are we done yet? Can I have my iPad back?
Me: No. We are not done.
I reach for my phone. Text friend. Is he kidding? Is this normal? Are these questions appropriate for second graders?
Charlie: I’m hungry. Can you make me an egg?
Me: One second.
Charlie: Are we finished?
Fill in the answer. I told myself. Press send. Check complete. Send the child back to Minecraft. Resume working.
Evil decrees will be nullified if you do Teshuva, Tefillah, and give Tzedakah.
Done. Check. Return iPad. Feel accomplished. Award myself the mother of the year award. Return to work.
Me: Yes. Here. (pass him the Ipad)
I take a deep breath. Suppress my rage.
Charlie: Are you okay?
Me: I’m fine. Why?
Charlie points to the tight grip of my hand on the Ipad.
We are done. Passed the torch. Another generation controlled with shame. Planted seeds of self-hatred. Self-doubt. Judgment. Criticism. Good children are warned to stay away from bad children. Bad children turn into bad adults. G-d punishes the bad. Rewards the good. Be good.
Cue up Brene Brown. Slide-in earpods. Put earpods back into the case. Search for a charger. Listen to Dr. Brene Brown on speakerphone. The Gifts of Imperfection.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.―
Charlie: Mommy, can you make it lower. The lady is very loud.
“Adopt an attitude of gentleness and respectfulness in the process of labeling thoughts and returning to the object of meditation. Not struggling with what is and discovering relaxation. Knowing one’s own fear and suffering and knowing the fear and suffering of others. Working with the desire to hold onto thoughts, the experience of loneliness, the tendency to evaluate one’s practice, the tendency to plan for the future in practice, and the middle way between eternalism and nihilism. -Pema Chodron
Seated upright. Legs crossed. Eyes open. Hands resting on my thighs. Pema Chodron guides me in the art of making friends with my mind. With humanity.
The peaks and the valleys. Happiness and Pain. Solace in the breath. Mindful of the moment. Liberation from suffering.
Freedom from judgment. Freedom from the good and the bad.
Me: How will I wholeheartedly recite “teshuva, tefillah, tzedakah, maavarin et roe hagezarah”?
Pema: Shenpa. Recognize the trigger. The hook. The storyline. See this as an opportunity to not feed the chain reaction of suffering.
Pema: A little less harshness and judgment. More gentle.
Two days of honey. Sugary meals, prayers, and greetings. (In quarantine, not that big of a deal)
Singing the familiar tunes with my children and husband, my heart swelled with emotion. Gratitude for the years spent inside Shul, grateful that my children wanted to be with me – proud of our resilience. Our ability to cope with groundlessness. Cope with the pain of change. Minimize our expectations. Perspective.
Yet, the intensity of the sugar high, the promises, the wishes, the desires, the hopes, the expectations for sweetness for good left me feeling bloated, with intense cravings, tired, mood swings, and low energy. Desperation for sweet. Condemnation for the bitter. Finger-pointing. Blame. Self-righteousness.
I missed Pema. Channeling her Voice, her humor, with loving-kindness, I inhaled and exhaled. Caught the shenpa, with the label of thinking. I got curious. Open and receptive. Be flexible.
Me: I’m trying Pema.
Pema: Thinking. Return to the breath.
Pain part of the human experience. Happiness part of the human experience. Can’t control – forever. Can’t avoid – forever. Can’t numb – forever. Can’t escape – forever. What can we do? Increase our suffering – forever. Or become friends with ourselves.
Developing unconditional friendship means taking the very scary step of getting to know yourself. It means being willing to look at yourself clearly and to stay with yourself when you want to shut down. It means keeping your heart open when you feel that what you see in yourself is just too embarrassing, too painful, too unpleasant, too hateful. – Pema Chodron
Return to the breath.
All: “ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה – מעבירין את רע הגזירה”
Good and Bad. Right and Wrong. Black and White.
Me: Sometimes I am good. Sometimes I am bad.
Ten Days of Imperfection.
The return. To Pema, to Brene, to Dr. Goitman, to Dr. Germer, to Dr. Harriet Lerner. To my DBT therapist.
Accepting the reality of dialectics. Multiple truths. I don’t need to solve — I can’t solve it.
Quarantine prevented a return to the mountains—At home, plenty of peaks. Plenty of valleys.
Distance learning, setting the table for lunch, clearing the lunch plates for dinner.
Pema, staving off the feelings of inadequacy. Bad parenting. Children hungry at ten pm. The sink. The laundry. Needs.
Return to the breath. Manage expectations. No ice cream for the break – Fast – okay. Approach the decision to check Facebook at 1:30 am with empathy. Not meeting the day’s work goals, the week’s work goals – awareness.
Caffeine – detox. Headache. Cook for Shabbat. Mommy, how will we fast?
Return to the breath.
Kol Nidrei: Voices of Sinners
In the darkness, we raised our voices. We beat our chests.
We are bad. We have sinned. Our fathers have sinned. (Text forgot to blame our mothers, or acknowledge that we have mothers – oh yeah “Thinking. Return to breathe”).
Me: I am not a sinner. I refuse to be a sinner. I’m not going down that path.
I’m human, the sign on my refrigerator testifies.
Me: I am allowed to be mad. I am allowed to be angry. I am allowed to be frustrated. I am allowed to fall in love. I am allowed to be selfish. I am human.
Me: Yes, Pema. I am thinking. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’m raging. I had enough. I’m done. This. Is not me. This. Does not reflect my values. This. goes against my soul.
The White Machzor
Rays of light, illuminate my Koren Machzor, filled with the brilliance of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
The great question Yom Kippur poses to us is: Will we grow in our Judaism, our emotional maturity, our knowledge, our sensitivity, or will we stay what we were? Never believe we can’t be different, greater, more confident, more generous, more understanding and forgiving than we were. May this year be the start of a new life for each of us. Let us have the courage to grow. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Last night’s testament to a fixed mindset, the good the bad, retired. Replaced by Rabbi Sack’s application of the mindset of growth. Modern research, findings, and analysis in the field of Emotional Intelligence highlighted. Providing insight and clarity on the ancient words.
Spotlighting the Mask. Our Stuck Identity.
This is the idea at the heart of teshuvah. It is not just confession, not just saying Al chet shechatanu. It is not just remorse: Ashamnu. It is the determination to change, the decision that I am going to learn from my mistakes, that I am going to act differently in future, that I determined to become a different kind of person. – Rabbi Jonathen Sacks.
Atone for the sins committed by your fixed Identity. Pages and pages of harm you caused yourself and others. In pursuit.
Return to the breath.
In the heat of the day, I clopped Al Chet. For the sins, I committed in pursuit of the good. Of being good. Of appearing good. Of having good. Of staying good. Of being seen as good. For the sins, I committed to escape the bad. Numb the bad. Defend the bad. Suppress the bad.
For the sins I committed by stubbornly clinging to my fixed Identity and ignoring my Essence.
My Tzelem Elokim. My individuality.
Discovering in the Voice of Hashem within me.
Return to the breath.
Jonah: Journey from Identity to Essence
Chanting the Haftorah, the Jonah, the hero emerged. His adventure transcending the Ego, Actualizing Self.
Jonah heard the Voice. Jonah hid from the Voice. Jonah denounced the Voice. Jonah ran from the Voice.
The Voice announced his mission.
Jonah closed his ears. The audacity. The foolishness. He needed to get more sleep. He was cracking up. Not crazy enough, to follow through. Carry out the mission. Social suicide. Inviting his parents’ wrath, his family, his children, his community, the leaders, the teachers, his world.
Jonah: Quiet Voice. Shhh. I can’t hear you.
Voice: Go to the people of Nineveh and tell them that they have to do Teshuva.
Jonah: Sorry, Voice. I’m boarding the ship.
Jonah: Can’t hear you.
Voice: Jonah. Jonah.
Jonah: Can’t hear you. I’m not going on the record like the one that warned that saved the nation. Let them die. Then they can’t destroy us. I know the future – Voice.
Voice: Jonah. Jonah. The Voice called for him when his body splashed into the dark, choppy frozen water.
Jonah: I have responsibilities. I have to honor my parents. I can’t do this. I refuse to. The consequences are too steep. Leave me. NO.
Jonah swerved to avoid the giant whale. Swallowed by the whale. Stuck in the body of the whale. One with the Voice.
Jonah: Fine. You win. Let me out.
The mask was removed. Jonah’s Identity shifted. His allegiances realigned. His Ego displaced.
The Essence swam to shore. Jonah, himself warned the people of Nineveh. Jonah himself witnessed the King join his people in sackcloth and ashes. Nineveh’s people sacrificed their identities, shed light on their sins, the harm they caused their family, their friends, their community, their world, and themselves.
This is precisely the opposite of the key sentence we say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that “Teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah avert the evil decree.” That is what happened to the inhabitants of Nineveh in the story we read at Mincha on Yom Kippur. There was a decree: “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed.” But the people of Nineveh repent, and the decree is cancelled. There is no fate that is final, no diagnosis without a second opinion – half of Jewish jokes are based on this idea. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Shattering Jonah’s Identity. Under the burning sun, Jonah heard his parents’ screams, the rage of his neighbors – You Jonah- you caused this. You saved the people of Nineveh. Why didn’t you mind your own business? Who asked you. Who told you. You, Jonah, you caused our suffering.
Shade appeared. Comforting Jonah.
Empathy, Compassion, Kindness from the Voice. Jonah closed his eyes, returned to the breath. When he opened his eyes, the tree was gone.
Voice: Eyes open, Jonah. Return to breathe, Jonah. Free yourself from suffering and the root of suffering. Own your Essence. Own your Self. Own your breath. Experience happiness. Experience. Freedom. Experience liberation. Be cleansed from sin. Sacrifice your Identity. Your Ego. Your expectations. Your predictions. Your logic. Your need to please. To be pleased. To be accepted.
Own your humanity. You are just a breath.
But becoming a spiritual warrior does not start there. It must begin with the determination that you want to really know yourself completely and utterly, so that you don’t have any private rooms and nooks and crannies that you’re concealing. You can’t become a warrior who helps others to find themselves if you are not making that journey yourself. The journey needn’t be completed, but you must have started down the road of encountering your fear. – Pema Chodron
Return to breathe.
Vain Like Breath
“מעשה אנוש….ואיך יתגאה, אדם להבל דומה’
The deeds of man. His plans are mere plots/ he lives in a world of deceit, His berth is lined with maggots,/ buried in a crevice of the ground. Then how can a man be exalted, when he is like a vain breathe.
According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Yom Kippur is about sacrificing our Identity.
Hearing the Voice of G-d within us. Our Essence. Our individuality. Our humanity. Our vulnerability, Our Godliness.
Accepting our unique skills, experiences, talents, dreams, desires. Our creativity. Our contribution to God’s world.
Staying with the bad. The darkness. The chaos. The confusion. Label your thoughts, thinking. Thinking you can control. Thinking that you know. Thinking, you can fix it. Thinking, you can solve it. It’s just thinking.
Finding the courage to change.
It is also God’s call to us on Yom Kippur. This is the time when we ask ourselves where have we gone wrong? Where have we failed? When we tell ourselves the answer, that is when we need the courage to change. If we believe we can’t, we won’t. If we believe we can, we may. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
The machzor flashes back to the Asarah Harugei Malchut, the gezerah. Righteous. Holy. Godly. No amount of Teshuva, Tefillah U’ Tzedakah, able to nullify the evil gezarah.
Martyrs. No thinking. No hiding. No stories. No righteous indignation.
Acceptance of their humanity. The sacrifice of Identity. Refused to take an easy way out. A logical way out. Instead, submitting to G-d’s will. Crying out in faith: the courage to take a risk.
Living and Dying according to their values. Heeding the Voice. Recognizing their mission. following their Bliss. Transcending the gezarah of Ego, their carefully construed false Identity. Cleansing themselves of the sins, the harm caused. Liberation in their Essence. Heeding the Voice. Living in line with their passions. Their goals.
Giants in their lifetime. Their climactic act of choosing principle over self-interest, transitioning them into Heroes.
Returning to the breath.
Pema Chodron defines the evil decree as the old age pattern of selfishness. Of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure.
Pema teaches us the antidote, TongLen. An ancient practice of “sending and taking,” to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each out-breath, we send them relief.
May I experience happiness and the root of happiness. May you experience happiness and the root of happiness.
May I be free of suffering and the root of suffering. May you be free of suffering and the root of suffering.
ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה – מעבירין את רע הגזירה
Teshuva allows us to grow. Renew our relationship with ourselves. To find the courage to let go of the need for self-esteem that fuels our passion for self-justification. Our blustering claim that we are in the right when in truth, we know we are often wrong; even the greatest are merely humans; even the only human can also be great. Yom Kippur invites us to become better than we are in the knowledge that we can be better than we were. That knowledge comes from God. The truly great human beings have opened themselves up tot he inspiration of something greater than themselves. -Rabbi Jonathen Sacks
Follow the formula of Teshuva, Tefillah U’ Tzedakah. Remove evil from my midst. Our midst.
Teshuva – Sacrifice our Identity. Return to our Essence. Tefillah – Submit to G-d’s Majesty. Accept our humanity. Tzedakah – Generosity. Connect with millions of others, struggling, living free of masks, devoid of Identity, experiencing their Essence.
The Next Chapter
It is a day not just of confession and forgiveness but of profound liberation. Atonement that we can begin again. We are not held captive bu our past by our failures. The book is open, and God invites us – His Hand guiding us the way a scribe guides the hand of those who write a letter in the Torah scroll – to write a new chapter in the story of our people, a chapter uniquely our own yet, one we cannot write on our won without being open to something vaster than we will ever fully understand. It is a day on which G-d invites us to greatness. -Rabbi Jonathen Sacks
A new year. A sweet year. A year of return. Connection. Vulnerability. Risk. Courage. Mistakes. Empathy. Compassion. Kindness. Love.
Faithful to God. Mindful of the Voice within us. Our Essence. Our Godliness. Our Self.
Return to breathe.
Second Grade Challenge Accepted
Me: Rav Avraham, I ask of you, mechilah. For thinking. For spinning. For judging. For condemning. For gossiping. Thanks for the challenge! For the quest.
For daring greatly – to ask. For whetting my curiosity.
Charlie: Are we done yet?
Charlie: Good, Can I have the Ipad.
Me: Take Rocky for a walk.
My Yom Kippur Journey
ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה – מעבירין את רע הגזירה
This past Yom Kippur I returned. To breathe. To my Essence.
I inhaled self-awareness. Inhaled clarity. Inhaled insight. Inhaled courage. Inhaled faith. Inhaled change. Inhaled growth.
The journey of a lifetime. Sacrificing identity. Clopping Al Chet for harm caused. Commitment to being aware of my failings and my faults.
Submission to Hashem. Davening, from the depths. Linking my personal pain, uncertainty, fears, rejections, frustrations, and millions of others, also hiking through the valley. Offering empathy, compassion, and kindness.
Pledging to heed my teachers’ voices, Dr. Brene Brown, Pema Chodron, and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Increasing my faith, the courage to take risks.
To love. To accept. To connect. To empathize. To empower.
To Be Holy.
Holiness is expressed in our most intimate relationships within the family; in the love that is loyal and generous, self-sacrificing and kind, in the sensitivity of marriage partners to one another and their needs, and in our ability to recognize the integrity of otherness that lies at the heart of love. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
To returning to the breath.
Our Next Mesima: Moving Day
Time to move. Out of our homes, Out of our comfort. Out of our control.
A temporary dwelling. Vulnerable to the elements. Reliant on God.
Here, we are commanded to experience joy – Chag Simchateinu.
Me: I know, Brene, FFT’s – normalize the feelings, lower the expectations, put things in perspective.
Me: Okay, Pema. Fine. Thinking.
Me: I’ll return to my breath.