Be In Your Discomfort
OpinionsYom Kippur 5779

Be In Your Discomfort

Dens Schusterman is founding director of Intown Jewish Preschool and Intown Hebrew School.

Dena Schusterman

Dena Schusterman is a founder of Chabad Intown, a Jewish educator, and a founding director of both the Intown Jewish Preschool ( and the Intown Hebrew School. She and her husband, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, are native Californians living in Atlanta for 20 years with their eight children.

Courtsey of @bellefotos
Courtsey of @bellefotos

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, is upon us and I am embracing the mood of the hour, which is, to be reflective.

On the 24th hour of the 25-hour fast, I might not feel it, but on an early reflection of Yom Kippur, I am newly inspired to appreciate this day, as a very welcome gift.

A gift I, and our generation, very deeply need.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, which neatly transcribes to “at-one-ment,” the moment in time where we are most connected to G-d and to the essence of ourselves.


Yom Kippur is a day given to us to reflect on the year that has past, and we do this through fasting and prayer.

“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G-d.” (Leviticus 16:30)

Yom Kippur was given to us many generations ago. It was given to the first generation of Jews that were in the desert and sinned with the Golden Calf, but I believe its benefits are uniquely endowed to the generation we live in today.

I am not imagining YK as a gift that I am going to repackage to y’all as a day of pleasure and festivity.

I am thinking of it as a gift in the exact state you know it to be – dreaded (for some) for 11 months of the year.

The crux of Yom Kippur is to agitate ourselves so that we rise above the physicality of our lives and ultimately elevate it to the level of spirit.


The Yom Kippur discomfort exists on many levels, for many individuals, across all Jewish strata.

For many, the discomfort is in the specific practices of the day itself: fasting, non-leather shoes, prayer.

For others, it is the discomfort of stepping inside of the synagogue. Or perhaps the discomfort lies in the very essence of the day, unease with its mandate of self-examination. For some, the discomfort is so great that they sidestep the duty and tradition and remain at home, or in the lobby of the synagogue, figuratively, or literally. This being a total tease to the soul.

In the fast-paced world that we live, we have endless options available at our fingertips to distract ourselves, and to avoid feeling. As a result, modern-day thinkers are animated with the benefits of leaning into our discomfort, and caution against attempting to speed-up, or avoid the process of processing feelings.

“It’s he or she who’s willing to be the most uncomfortable” that can rise strong, (Brené Brown).

When faced with uncomfortable feelings, our brain, which is wired for survival, says, “Drink some wine,” “eat your feelings,” or “buy something for yourself to push the feelings away.”

When faced with our children’s big feelings, our inclination is to try to happy them up, similarly, with bribery, distraction, avoidance or dismissal.

When really, I should, ‘stop’ ‘wait’ ‘notice’ and ‘recognize’ how I am feeling and processing the situation I find myself in, in order to overcome the negativity and rise above the pain.

There is a saying, “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” In our house we are learning to say, “You get what you get; you may be upset.”

Big feelings are OK, and we have the ability to process them, to grow with them. I am robbing my child or myself of the most effective teacher, discomfort, if I smooth each situation out and make it alright.

“What our brain does not take into consideration is the need for discomfort and vulnerability in real relationships,” (Brené Brown).

G-d’s gift to us in this day is that we are called upon to be IN our discomfort. We are gifted an entire day each year to flex this muscle of agony and to feel authentic vulnerability. Not in order to become depressed and miserable, but so that we can do the real work – through prayer and meditation – which then allows us to rise up and form an even closer connection to each other and to G-d. At-ONE-ment.

This year, as Yom Kippur approaches, consider celebrating it with all of its uncomfortability, think of it as G-d’s gift to the world. Happy healing!

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