Finding Self Love in my recitation of the Viddui 

By Debbi Levy

At the final confession of the Yom Kippur service, I stood with the congregation and readied my fist to softly tap my chest as we gave voice to the alphabetized ways we humans can fall short. The prayer we were praying was the “Viddui,” and it is often referred to as a litany of sins. I balanced the prayerbook in my left hand, to gently tap near my heart with my right hand shaped in that fist pose as each transgression is named in this prayer ritual. I was more than ready to sink into awareness and lament my failings one last time, in the quiet and urgency of the hour. But, somehow, my hand unclenched and another personal practice began to form. I am anxious and a bit vulnerable as I share this with you, Reader, but am hoping newly lifted veils can help each of us to grow and draw closer in 5784.

My Kohenet ordination took place on the new moon of Elul. That is when we Jewish people begin to read Psalm 27 each day in preparation for the hard work of moving mindfully through the fall holidays. A rule follower and a person who values deep insightful moments, I read the psalm and began climbing the hills and deepening myself into the valleys of self-reflection. I saw so much. Some I could barely admit, even to myself, and some made me thankful to be a Jew who is given this unique opportunity of an annual myopic lens. I did my best not to hide, from the Creator or myself, and trudged along, sometimes uplifted, and sometimes disappointed in my lapses as well as endless lack of patience in my world. It was good, solid emotional work. It was fatiguing at times. Reciting the psalm, doing the work, journaling some and releasing what I felt it was time to finally shed. So back to the last bits of daylight on our sacred Yom Kippur.

My clenched right hand unfurled itself. My long fingers made a soft haven and laid across my tender heart space. My soul found voice here.

“Debbi, you are a good person. You try so hard to uncover your purpose, and in so doing you perform good works for others. You are a product of divorced parents, of broken families and communication breakdowns. You endured and tried not to repeat the process. But as an adult you learned that divorce can sometimes be the right thing, maybe even the holy thing. 

“You give away your life findings: yoga, meditation, soulful prayer, advice when asked, comforting crystals and an ear to those who share their lives with you intimately.

“Your life has felt the rain of blessings all around you, too. And the scales very often tip not to one side or the other, but back to the center, back to the only thing that really is center, back to God. And your heart is as overjoyed with this knowledge as was King David’s. So lay your hand upon your heart during these last moments of this Yom Kippur day and dwell in all the threads of your life, the past and the present, and be uplifted under the watchful gaze of the angels.” Amen.

Kohenet Debbi Levy welcomes your conversation at

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