Judaism for me is a home, a religion and an identity. At the most crucial times of my life, those moments that it seemed darkness would reign over me, Judaism has been my refuge and salvation. This is not the easiest thing to share, but I feel that it is important that people know that even rabbis face crises of faith and purpose. Judaism means so much to me, precisely in these moments.
I want to share a teaching that has meant a great deal to me, and has been a comfort in some difficult moments. It is one of the most famous of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who is one of my primary spiritual guides.
The teaching is taken from the second half of a verse from Psalm 146. In Hebrew, it is “Azamra Leilohei B’odi.” This is normally translated as “I will sing to God with all of my strength,” implying that we should serve God with all of our might and ability. This is a good thought when you are feeling strong and confident. It is not as helpful when you are feeling weak, or depressed, when you feel as though you have nothing left.
Rabbi Nachman was concerned that we never give into despair, something he struggled with himself his entire life. He translates the verse from Psalms differently. He said, “We should sing to God with what we have left.” That is to say that even when we are feeling at our worst, and that we do not have anything to offer God or anyone else, God will count what little we have and what little we can do as a complete prayer and offering. God will view us as 100% worthwhile even when we feel worthless.
This is particularly important to remember when so many people are going through difficult times, not just financially, but emotionally. So many of our identities are wrapped up in our professions or our ability to provide for our loved ones and the community. We feel bad about ourselves, because we many not be able to do what we used to.
Rabbi Nachman said that we should never give up on ourselves, because God never does. We can always find what is eternally valuable within ourselves. Even one kind deed to another person can change their world, and maybe the whole world for the better.
This teaching has helped me find myself when I felt lost. I hope you never need it, but if you do, that it gives you comfort and hope.