Rabbi Analia Bortz lost her voice while she took prescription painkillers after a running accident four years ago, and that experience led her on a journey of self-healing that she recounts in her new book, “The Voice of Silence.”
Doctors advised Rabbi Bortz, a physician herself, to have surgery, but she refused. Instead, she adopted experimental exercises and enrolled in a silent retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirt in Conyers.
Rabbi Bortz recalled entering the Catholic Trappist monastery exactly 20 years after she was ordained as the first female rabbi in Latin America and on the yahrzeit of her father.
The Congregation Or Hadash rabbi discovered the monastery online after searching for silent retreats in Georgia and deciding that Holy Spirit was the right fit for her because it served vegetarian food.
“I thought it would be a wonderful way to explore something new,” she said.
During her retreat Rabbi Bortz uncovered the meaning of silence, and she said she decided to write about what she learned. “It was an emotional, spiritual and sacred experience for me, and I wanted to capture every moment.”
Rabbi Bortz stopped writing for a while, but she realized that writing could help heal her after her mother died two years ago. “I decided to share my journey to help people who are facing immobility or a difficult moment in their life.”
Everyone struggles with vulnerabilities, Rabbi Bortz said. “We sometimes mask ourselves when we cross a stage of life, which makes it difficult to express how we feel, but silence is not the absence of dialogue and can be filled with sounds.”
The title of her book relates to biblical characters and to men and women who have said a lot through their silence, Rabbi Bortz said. She also relates the title to the first dialogue between man and G-d, which is presented as an open question: Where are you?
“There are many answers to the question; however, the question also represents an open dialogue where one can physically be in one place but spiritually in another or at the same place both physically and emotionally,” she said.
Rabbi Bortz hopes that every reader will take something different from the book and that each chapter will speak to people in special ways.
“A lot of people have approached me and said they were in need to hear something like this from a rabbi or that reading the book finally allowed them to mourn,” she said. “Sometimes people have a lot of broken pieces in their heart and don’t know how to fix it, but it’s important to not skip any steps to overcome life’s challenges.”