As we enter this time of year that reminds us to reflect, I would like to share the following article by Tara Watkins, LICSW, Kesher social worker at Temple Emanu-El.
Reconnecting With Our True Selves
It’s that time of year again, time to recall the year that has passed, reflect on how we have lived, and think about the traits we would like to exemplify more in the year ahead.
In reflecting on this, I came across a wonderful legend that illustrates the importance of aligning our inner and outer selves. The story goes that a revered eighteenth century rabbi-Rabbi Meshulam Zusya- was on his death bed. His students gathered around him astonished and dismayed to find him weeping. They asked their learned and beloved teacher why he was crying- might he be crying because he had not been a visionary pioneer like Abraham? He answered no he was not worried about this, because God had not made him like Abraham. They questioned him further asking: Then perhaps you are weeping because God might criticize you for not being like Moses, the most humble of leaders? “Heavens no,” the rabbi replied. “If God had wanted me to be like Moses, God would have made me like Moses. “ No,” he told them, “I am weeping because I fear that the Holy One will ask me why was I not Zuysa!”
Recounting this story at this time of year is especially poignant as we reflect on our lives. Humans are called “human beings” but so often our busy lives make us more into “human doings” rushing here and there and developing personas and masks for the many roles we play in our daily public lives.
When we strip away the masks we wear and the many hats we carry, such as those we use for our chosen career, family roles, and other titles and positions- are we truly happy with the authentic self that lies within? Or do we find a self that may have become a stranger to us, so different and unknown that perhaps we are not sure if this really is our authentic self?
I challenge you to pause and reflect on the many hats and masks you wear, and ask yourself when was the last time you really were your true authentic self? Is the true you someone you’d like to see more? And if so, ask yourself how this might be possible.
Questions to help with reflection:
When have I felt most like my true self?
What circumstances allow for feeling like I am speaking, acting, thinking from my deepest self?
What circumstances tend to cut me off from my true self?
What are the roles I play or masks I wear? To what extend do I over-identify with these roles and/or masks, which may be ideal for my interactions with people but limit the ways I experience my deeper/higher/truer self?
When has my sense of who I am been challenged or changed in a substantial way?
I hope you enjoyed Tara’s article and found ways it can be meaningful to you. I would also like to offer in addition to these thought provoking, reflective questions, that mindfulness is also a tool that supports connecting to your true self. If you are unsure about what mindfulness is, look back at the spring article in April for some ideas. And stay tuned to future articles as mindfulness will be featured again! In the meantime, notice your breath for a moment and bring your attention back to the sensations of your breath when your mind inevitably wanders. As the Kesher social worker for the temple, I am available to help process with you any obstacles or struggles you foresee getting in the way of being your true self. I welcome the opportunity to help you find and connect more with the true you and explore further what may be standing in the way of being your authentic self.
(Legend narrative and reflection questions adapted from Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal, copyright 2015 by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.)
Back to Kesher Program
Amy Small, LICSW, is the new Kesher social worker at the synagogue. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and currently active at Congregation Agudas Achim, Temple Torat Yisrael, Temple Am David, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Beth Sholom. Amy may be reached at email@example.com or