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Why I Didn’t Talk for The Duration of Yom Kippur

Jews throughout time and space have a practice of atoning during Yom Kippur by refraining from eating and drinking for 25 hours. From time to time, including this year, I choose to add to my dietary fast by voluntarily abstaining from speech, too.

Evidently this practice is called Taanit Dibbur (a speech fast), but I only learned that after I had already adopted the practice about five years ago. (You can find out more with a Google search.) I am not a rabbi or Torah scholar, but I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, attorney, writer, trustee and advocate. Thus, words and speech are the very stuff of my life. Like most stuff, words can accumulate, get cluttered, and need to be purged from my mental space. For this reason, taanit dibbur is a valuable clarifying spiritual exercise I highly recommend.

I have found that by refraining from speech (in my case other than joining in tefillah and succinct greetings of “G’mar Chatimah Tovah”) that I am better able to hear myself think and be present. I hear myself pray, and my children, spouse and congregation pray and converse. I could delight in these and hearing my nieces giggling during the Amidah. I allowed myself to pause and check my all-too-frequent urges to step into breaches, interject, quip, admonish, explain, reply, argue. Of course, I spared those around me from my comments, and permitted myself the luxury of not feeling forced into small talk banalities about hunger, achy feet, boredom, religious disagreements.

Instead, I happily used nonverbal gestures to communicate: smiling wider, hugging more, and shrugging my shoulders. Mainly, I used the quiet space I created to make promises to myself about the coming year. I hope to keep them. So far, so good:-)