Debby Titlebaum Neuman

Words of our heart

I love our tradition and it is hard for me.

This year on Yom Kippur I felt a block.  Not with myself, not with my Creator, not with my world; but with words.

In the early morning walking down the side of our mountain, looking at the valley below, I was part of the silence of the world.  It was magical!   I was cloudy and blessed.  Opening my machzor as I strolled, I began reciting the morning prayers.  I said one and then I stopped.

I am blessed to live in Israel, to be healthy, strong, to be alive. I am blessed with so many things and I want to speak in the positive!  I am not grateful that I am NOT a slave, I am grateful I AM free.  I am not grateful that I am NOT a goy I am grateful that I AM a Jew.  And of course I am grateful to be created according to G!ds will and I AM grateful that I am a woman (not in spite of but mostly because I give birth).

I said the words that I wanted to share with G!d instead of what I saw printed before me and continued to the schul.  Inside I wanted to feel a communal cleansing, instead I felt the air-conditioning and the tears as they wet my face.  I felt my mind rolling around as my lips mouthed words that were not mine.

I felt disconnected from the prayers and so I opened my heart voice; it was a bit hoarse and timid at first.  Throughout the day it found its rhythm, tempo, and tone.

We are a tribal people steeped in a deep tradition of customs.  It’s just this Yom Kippur, our rituals felt stale to me.  We are so ‘used’ to what happens on these days, so used to making plans for seudat mafseket and break-fast, so used to getting our kids showered and dressed in white, so used to lighting candles and making blessings, so used to saying ‘gmar chatimah tova’, so used to doing what it is we are told to do.  Sometimes I fear that we have forgotten to look for ourselves, our honest selves, inside these rituals.

If I were to atone for my sins, how would I do that?  If I were to speak my truth, how would that sound?  If I were to be my essential self, how would that look?  What if it the answers to these questions would shock me and those around me?  Where do I find the balance between tradition and expression of true self?

With these questions and more, my own words came flooding out.  Some of them were comforting, some were sorrowful, some were scary, but all of them were mine.

I know G!d can handle hearing the words of our heart, after all He created us. I just hope we can be brave and make space for those words to emerge.  Then just like our Creator we can speak and positively create the reality we are meant to exist within.

About the Author
Debby is a mother, writer, childbirth educator, spiritual teacher, forest gan manager, and doula. When she is not teaching, writing, or attending births she can most often be found wandering the Judean hills with her five daughters, foraging wild edibles, strumming her ukelele, and feeling gratitude at the wonders of creation.
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