Excerpt from Modim by Linda K. Wertheimer

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The full essay appears in our Fall 2014 print issue.

The entire issue is available for download in digital format.

MY ARMS FELT HEAVY, MY MOUTH PARCHED AS I DREW THE FLUTE CLOSE TO MY LIPS.

    It was a regular Friday night service at temple, and only 50 people sat in the sanctuary. I was about to accompany the cantor on a song, something I had done many times. Yet I was petrified and feared collapsing into tears.

    I was 43, and three weeks before, was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I was anxious about my health, anxious about my baby boy’s welfare, anxious that my husband of two years would think he married a fraud rather than a competent, upbeat, successful journalist. Around the time our son was six weeks old, irrational fears and thoughts overtook me. I could not sleep when the baby slept. I was often nauseous. One night, I lay in bed thinking I was having a stroke. Every limb tingled. I did not want to be left alone. I would not let my sleep-deprived husband rest.

    But there was so much to be thankful for in my life even as it unraveled. A decade ago, I had no husband, no child. Faith was a bit player. I lingered on the sidelines of Judaism, singing in a temple chorus but never taking the step that would make the music mean more than a string of notes. Five years in a row, I sang in High Holy Day services, rejoicing in the harmony but rarely understanding enough to find a way to connect to God. It was as if I were performing in a concert rather than participating in a spiritual moment.

Linda K. WertheimerLINDA K. WERTHEIMER, a veteran journalist from Lexington, Mass., is the author of FAITH ED, Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance (Beacon Press, August 2015). This essay stems from a memoir she is writing about losing her brother and finding her Jewish faith. She won an honorable mention in the 2011 Tiferet nonfiction writing contest for “Jew Girl”. Her website is www.lindakwertheimer.com. Follow her on Twitter @lindakwert. She teaches journalism part-time at Boston University.

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