Going Deep During the Days of Awe

By Aliyah Vinikoor, LICSW, Mental Health Counselor at JFS 

A few weeks ago, I came across this video that stopped me in my scroll. In it, Joey Weisenberg of Hadar’s Rising Song Institute and his sons sing a plaintive rendition of Psalm 130 that captures not only the feeling of the High Holidays, but also these dark times we’re living through.

Leading up to this year’s High Holidays, we have faced some of the bleakest experiences of our time: an unending global pandemic, continued oppression of Black folks, historic wildfires that choked the entire West Coast, and the passing of one of our true tsaddikim (righteous ones), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And yet this video reminded me of a salient truth: the days surrounding the Jewish New Year – known as the Days of Awe – are always meant to be a little dark.

“From the depths, from the deepest places, I call out to you Hashem.” As Weisenberg guides us through the song, he brings us further and further into the depths that we’ve been peering into these last many months. “God, listen to my voice. Let your ears be ears that can listen to the sounds of my pleading.”

In some ways, it feels as though we’ve collectively hit rock bottom this year. But if a pit is dug deep enough, Weisenberg says, we can sometimes find life-giving water at the bottom. “Often we have to dig deep into ourselves to find the mayyim hayim, the wisdom inside of us.”

That’s the story of this time of year: we must plunge into the depths of ourselves to find our resilience and strength.

It’s also the story of therapy. Indeed, as this song filled my soul, I reflected on the many ways that these days of introspection mirror the healing processes of therapy.

It’s a truism in therapy that oftentimes we feel worse before we begin to feel better. Clients gift us with their darkest secrets, fears, and shadowy sides of themselves. We plunge these depths together, the therapist serving as a guide. It’s only through confronting our inner turmoil head on, with the nonjudgemental support of a listening presence, that one begins to heal. It’s through the telling of these stories that we can begin to make sense of our lives and our world – and that we begin to write new stories about ourselves.

Especially during this time of collective crisis, I think the annual transition through the end of the Jewish year – and celebrating a new beginning – has wisdom to offer. It’s often remarked that our self-reflective journey during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is one taken in community, in synagogue. We must come together in order for each of us to go deep inside. So too, in therapy. Even in our darkest moments we never have to go it alone – and we may find healing, the mayyim hayim, together.

If you need mental health support right now, please contact cas@jfsseattle.org or (206)-861-3152. JFS is here to help, and we offer our services on a sliding scale. We also accept insurance. You can also visit our Counseling & Addiction Services webpage here for more information, as well as our Project DVORA (domestic violence services) page here.

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