Prayer of the Month: When Your Head Is Not in the Game

Rabbi Sarah Bassin

Core of Goodness

There are lots of ways to describe the phenomenon of self-doubt, that you have “psyched yourself out” or that “your head is not in the game”.                       

Maybe you are more prone to “not trusting yourself.” At the core, each of these phrases captures a sense of inadequacy. The feeling that we’re not good enough plagues every one of us – to greater and lesser degrees. Often, religion can serve as a tool to reinforce these feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy by pointing out our shortcomings and plaguing us with the language of sin. But each morning, Jewish tradition gives us a spiritual antidote to the self-doubt that is likely to strike at some point during our day.

first prayer of the month

The prayer is framed as though we’re reminding God of this fact – that we want God to remember that we are good at our core, that we’re not just a pile of sinners. But if you change the punctuation, it changes the orientation of the prayer. When I recite this prayer, it’s more accurate for me to punctuate it as:                                            

“God?……….. The soul you have given me is pure.”                                             

When I’m seeking that external validation that I am worthy in spite of my faults, it’s not unnatural to cry out in prayer. And when the response is inevitably silence, it reminds me that I have all the tools I already need. I have purity of soul. I have a core of goodness. I’m not reminding God that my soul is pure. I’m reminding myself. So when I face those moments of doubt, of psyching myself out, of my head not being in the game… this is prayer that helps me and my center – my core of goodness.

– Rabbi Sarah Bassin