A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter
Leviticus 16 describes the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). An integral part of both the High Priest’s work on Yom Kippur as well as each individual’s Yom Kippur and repentance process is an oral confession (16:21). It isn’t enough to feel regret for one’s sins or to think about changing or even to make a decision to repent and improve. Speaking aloud is a necessary component. Why?
We all know how many thoughts move through a person’s head each day. We have so many ideas, plans, inspirations, resentments that pop into our heads and most of them fly right out. Ideas are filled with potential, but unless we do something concrete to actualize them, they disappear. Their energy dissipates. The very act of taking an idea and verbalizing it, saying it out loud so our ears can hear it, makes it real. Our ideas begin to have power when we verbalize them, because only after we say a thought and hear ourselves say it, does it become real to us. A thought is fleeting, but a word begins to build reality.
Of course, this is why so much of the Torah focuses on the power of speech. The very world was created with ten statements starting with, “Let there be light.” God spoke and everything came into existence. The lesson is clear. Our thoughts can be all over the place. But when we crystalize a thought into speech it gives that thought weight, energy, reality. Words build worlds.
And here we are, ourselves and our families, together in ways that are new to many of us. And in the course of a day, there are many, many different thoughts that go through our heads and our children’s heads. There are positive thoughts like, “I feel so happy when I see my teenagers playing with their younger siblings and building new relationships with them,” and also negative thoughts, either of frustration with the current situation or fear and anxiety for the future. Our kids also have these thoughts. Sometimes they feel, “I’m going crazy” or “I really miss my friends” and sometimes they think, “It’s so nice to be unrushed in the morning and to hang out with my family.”
The beautiful message of the oral confession is that we have the choice of which worlds we want to build with our words. The High Priest creates a new reality by saying the confession aloud, and we create new realities with what we choose to say aloud. Although it is normal and appropriate to feel all sorts of conflicting feelings during the day, we can choose which ones we want to verbalize, which worlds we want to build and which worlds we want our children to hear us build.
This is our chance to tell our kids how much we love spending more time with them, how much joy we get when we see them playing together, how much help they are to us, how appreciative we are to God for the opportunity to spend more time together as a family. These words, even if they aren’t the entirety of what we feel, create positive energy that is tangible and real, and that builds a reality that reflects those words.
This is also an opportunity to ask our kids to share aloud what they appreciate from this time in their lives. They probably don’t need encouragement to kvetch and tell you what’s wrong, but a family dinner can be a lovely chance for everyone to share what he or she is enjoying during this time. Our kids will benefit from hearing their own positive thoughts said aloud. Their positive words will build positive worlds for them. Let’s discuss as a family the blessings we are experiencing now and what we appreciate in this unique time. Saying it aloud brings a thought to reality, and that is a powerful lesson for all.