Musaf as therapy

Posted on January 2, 2008

I think there is a lot to be said for sacrifice.

Let me explain that. I’m not saying it’s time to fire up the altar, and I don’t want to go anywhere near the political ramifications of rebuilding the Temple. I’m not even saying that sacrifice has to involve death. Not like it used to.

Rabbinic Judaism has replaced the Temple offerings with our tefillot, our prayers, which require an investment of time and effort, and if you count synagogue membership and other annual contributions, also money. Musaf is the additional prayer service that represents the additional Temple offering on Shabbat and holidays.

I think about this and I am not certain it is enough. Because nearly everything in life today requires an investment of time and effort and money. What makes our offering to G-d any different than our offering to a political cause or a social cause or a few hours of Internet shopping?

To me, it should be different. It should be special. And so when I reach Musaf and I’m contemplating the role of the Temple in our collective history, I take a moment to reflect on a different sort of sacrifice, my own “addition.”

What do I personally need to sacrifice that is standing in the way of my connection with G-d?

What obsolete defenses, inaccurate fears, faulty assumptions have cluttered my life and made it harder to reach my potential? Which of those need to “die” and make room for new life?

Lately I’ve worked on my fear of loss, my tenuous trust in the universe, my fear of not belonging, not deserving, not having the right to be.

It isn’t easy. It isn’t painless. Sometimes this blog is part of that sacrifice because there’s safety, it seems, in silence, in never bringing these things to light.

Speaking up means I have to think about it, put words to it, talk about it. Hear others’ opinions and ideas. Learn from it. Change it. Allow myself to be changed for the better.

It seems to me that is at the heart of Judaism itself.


  1. Rivka

    Anonymous: thank you! That is really sweet of you to say and I’m honored that it’s helpful. It is so essential to have a strong support system and I am glad you are there for your wife. It speaks greatly of your own commitment and strength of character. I truly hope you both are able to find peaceful and happy times too.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you. This is a sweet and very worthy insight.

    I have been lurking at your blog from time to time. You are actually quite a good model for faith and perseverence and genuine-ness. And you have helped me help my wife when her recurring depression brings her to tears, or when her anxiety exagerrates something almost to the point of immobilizing her.

    Thank you for sharing your hard work, your bravery, and your honesty. You are really helping others who you don’t even know.

    May Hashem bless you with strength, emunah, and clarity.

  3. Rivka

    Scraps: I think many of us need to give that up and it is my experience that some men would rather women didn’t. My friend D keeps reminding me that there’s a difference between humility (good) and self-degredation (bad), and too often we never learn that distinction.

    May your journey also be filled with successes and contentment.

  4. Scraps

    I also have sacrifices to make. I need to sacrifice my fear of rejection and/or abandonment. I need to sacrifice my instinct to put myself down. I need to sacrifice my need to put everyone else before myself–not because I’m a good, selfless person, but because I don’t feel like I deserve to be put before anyone else.

    I wish you much hatzlacha on your journey.

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