Episode 15: Finding Resilience Through Faith with Rabbi Jamie Arnold

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Part of my healing journey included relying heavily on my faith. Finding resilience through faith meant observing traditions and rituals I hadn’t grown up with or observed as an adult for most of my life.

This year with COVID-19 playing a pivotal role in how we practice our faiths, many of the communal aspects of my faith are being tested and have been minimized. One thing that hurt when I heard Rabbi Jamie say it, was that when we would normally have a couple of hundred people in the synagogue, this year we had only a couple dozen.

I personally studied Kabbalah with Rabbi Jamie. And the thing that stood out to me was the concept of wearing masks. It couldn’t be more appropriate!

In Kabbalah, we talk about interpretive masks, like daughter, mother, friend, spouse, partner, sibling, and worker (fill in your job). This year, we are all wearing physical masks.

On one hand, it allows for some anonymity and ability to say and behave in ways that are more true to ourselves, since we are behind a mask. It has become such a part of our (daily) lives that it is almost a ritual in and of itself.

Rabbi Jamie said it best:

“Part of what COVID has challenged us with is calling us to re-examine our relationship to our mask (the roles we play as parents, children, spouses, partners, workers, etc.). Our capacity to remove those masks gracefully has been tested.”

Rabbi Jamie Arnold

Each scenario in our life requires a different mask and different behavior. We can’t act in the same way with our parents as we do with our children, or our friends, or our siblings, or our coworkers.

Maybe you’ve put on a new mask during COVID you never thought you’d have to. Whether it’s an illness, unemployment, or another loss, we often struggle to accept what is.

“If it hurts every time you take off that old mask that is no longer serving you or is no longer possible, that saps energy and hope, and is a real draw on your capacity to endure.”

Rabbi Jamie Arnold

For me, finding resilience through faith during COVID has meant going back to the rituals that I leaned on during my healing process. I might not be able to practice my faith communally the way I have previously, but it doesn’t mean that I threw faith out the window either.

Finding resilience through faith during COVID means recognizing it is an obstacle, not an excuse. It almost makes me double down on my rituals, like taking deep breaths and holding dear demarcations of the week, the month, and the season.

In years past I would show up to synagogue expecting a prayer book would be waiting for me. Some years I completely took it for granted. I would bring other reading material (sometimes spiritual in nature) to read instead.

This year I worked to participate in high holiday services. I’m not tech-savvy, so I didn’t make a great effort to make a plan beforehand, to be selective about the services I would participate in (online), or have the right prayer book with the necessary prayers. So I found myself going along with what services my husband was streaming (online) and looking through a multitude of prayer books to find and piece together the bare minimum. What I realized was, it’s more important to me than I knew.

Highlights from the episode and a link to the whole episode are below.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  • 2:12 How Rabbi Jamie became a Rabbi.
  • 7:37 What is Kabbalah?
  • 15:52 The concept of masks in Kabbalah.
  • 21:32 Essential breath, I am, as a root of faith and replenishable well.
  • 22:30 The dichotomy of wearing or not wearing a mask.
  • 24:40 What’s one more mask? The new ritual.
  • 26:50 Returning to faith vs. mellowing on faith.
  • 30:05 Using traditions/rituals to boost connection to other people and your faith, and… make you more resilient.
  • 34:00 Is it okay to say, “I’m not there (right now)?”
  • 35:15 Obstacles and rituals.
  • 38:30 Reclaim why you do rituals in the absence of community.
  • 42:00 Adding meaning and purpose in day to day acts to become more resilient.
  • 44:08 Balancing being in the now and planning for the future.
  • 52:00 The juxtaposition of a human-being and a human-becoming.
  • 54:30 Faith and trust as the counter points to doubt and fear.

Links mentioned in today’s podcast:

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