Self-Love in the Siddur (Jewish Prayer Book)

Being raised as an Orthodox Jew, the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) played a prominent role in my education. As a young adult, I paid even closer attention to the words of the prayers and their historical context and significance. In later years I became less by the book, literally, and didn’t recite them regularly. Instead, at random times, I would extract some wisdom from certain prayers.

Well, it’s been a while but today a thought came to mind.

I was thinking about the meaning of self-care and self-love. To do things that are nurturing for ourselves. To process difficult emotions in a healthy way, instead of forever avoiding them. Sometimes we may do the wrong thing. Yet, always we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, and, thus, to love ourselves. But, how can we love ourselves when we make mistakes in life?

We are not loving our misguided actions, but rather maintaining respect for our core selves.

That is the part of ourselves that we connect to in meditation, a great tool for self-care.

And that is the aspect of ourselves discussed in the Jewish morning prayer “Elokhai Neshama,” “My G-d, the soul.”

Here is a translation of some of the prayer, per the Artscroll Siddur I grew up using:

“My G-d, the soul You have placed within me is pure. You created it, You fashioned it, You breathed it into me. You safeguard it within me…As long as the soul is within me, I gratefully thank You, Hashem…”

The commandment to love oneself is not selfish. And it sure as hell is not always easy.

To maintain the belief that at our core, deep in our soul, we are still good. To believe in our capacity for change and improvement. To have faith that we can be better. To put one foot in front of the other and proceed with this experiment that is OUR LIFE.

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