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This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  831 ratings  ·  102 reviews
There are times in life when we are caught utterly unprepared: a death in the family, the end of a relationship, a health crisis. These are the times when the solid ground we thought we stood on disappears beneath our feet, leaving us reeling and heartbroken, as we stumble back to our faith.

The Days of Awe encompass the weeks preceding Rosh Hashanah up to Yom Kippur, a pe
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 27th 2003 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2003)
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Jan Rice
This book was highly recommended by the new young rabbi at my synagogue whose special interests are Jewish spirituality and mysticism, and so a consensus to read it arose in my book study group. But for me it was like pulling teeth. I have a thing about self-help books, and anyway the recommendation was so high that I developed a resistance. He said it was the best single book on Jewish spirituality and even offered to refund the purchase price to any of us who didn't like it.

As it turned out, t
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jews always look at me funny when I say the high holidays are my favorite of all Jewish rituals. To be honest, it has something to do with the fact that it always falls around my birthday when my thoughts naturally turn again to the fact that I continue to survive my long dead twin sister, whose life recedes further and further into the past with each passing year.

This book explains why the high holidays are, or should be an incredible time of reckoning. It probably took a rabbi steeped in Budd
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The value of this book is real, and I am completely unprepared to discuss it -- at this time.
Selena McDevitt
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Let me preface this review by saying that I am Christian. Not only am I Christian, but I honestly had no idea about Judaism except what you learn from a historical standpoint.

In saying that, I was astounded by this book, so much so in fact, that I have asked for permission to observe the High Holidays at a local Synagogue. This book spoke so profoundly to me and solidified my own faith, that I simply must experience this at least once. I think that the author certainly achieved his intentions w
Nikki Morse
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-growth
What a wonderful book. As a prickly, non-Hebrew-reading or speaking, atheist, sentimental Jew, it's often difficult for me to find texts about Jewish ritual and practice that speak to me. This fits that bill, and I think it has so much to offer anyone who is thinking through personal transformation, spiritual meaning, honest self-judgment, and how to be honest with yourself. It discusses the High Holidays in detail, from Tisha B'Av through Sukkot, offering traditional readings of each and reinte ...more
Jordana Horn Gordon
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book took me so long to read...not because it was long or hard, but because it was magnificent. It was such a wonderful addition to my high holiday experience. I will have to come back to this every year. I could not recommend it more highly for anyone who wants to reinvigorate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with meaning.
Greg Marcus
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mussar, jewish-books
I read this book every year in the run up to the high holidays. I think people will be reading Rabbi Lew's book in 1000 years. It is the kind of book where every sentence has something to teach.

Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, judasim
The late Rabbi Alan Lew, who I once had the pleasure of meeting, wrote this book as an entrance into the Jewish High Holy Days. The Hebrew calendar month of Elul precedes the month of the High Holy Days, and is a time of reflection and looking inward as Jews prepare to reconcile the many ways in which they missed the mark or lost sight of God in the past year. I often read it during that month, and I am always reminded to try to live a better life. In many ways, it is a guide to just, moral, and ...more
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first read this about six years ago, and picked it up again this year the day before Yom Kippur. It's very Bay Area Californian - and I say that as someone born in Marin County - often more earnest than I feel comfortable with, but it makes me think I should maybe be more comfortable being more earnest. It blew through me like a clear wind and I don't think that was just because of the fasting. ...more
Andrew Ordover
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, bracing, poetic, loveing, and ruthlss look at the high holy days in Judaism and the ways in which they invite us to confront what are making of our lives and our world.

It's that time of year again. Time to re-read...
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Life changing read. That I read every year.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some of the teachings were very helpful, but it was also a very repetitive book and hard for me to read for long stretches of time.
David Goldman
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From the first pages of Rabbi Lew’s meditation the days of awe, you know you are reading an instant classic.

YOU ARE WALKING THROUGH THE WORLD HALF ASLEEP. It isn’t just that you don’t know who you are and that you don’t know how or why you got here. It’s worse than that; these questions never even arise. It is as if you are in a dream. (p. 3).

R. Lew sees the High Holy Days (HHDs) as literally with your house falling (Tisha B’Av) to ending with living in a fragile house (Sukkot). The practical
Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This has been the most productive Jewish Days of Awe season I've experienced. I owe this to my Maharat/friend with whom I study. For two reasons. First, she's taught me the indispensable value of spiritual preparation and effort. I never took things frivolously; but I certainly never started preparing for holidays or lifecycle events weeks ahead of time. Not COOKING. Not chometz dusting. I mean spirit dusting. For weeks. Emptying out. Becoming a mind. I saw how amazing this value was at my son's ...more
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book floored me. It is rich, compelling, and astounding in its purity. The late Rabbi Lew addresses the beautiful transformation and soul searching ritual that takes place each year during the Jewish holidays of Tisha B'Av and Sukkot. He writes that we are constantly redefining ourselves, that we must become conscious of our blunders, and that the healing and repentance that we undergo at this time of year can heal us. Inner healing requires self-acceptance, forgiveness, and a willingn ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm very pleased I read this book today.

So as some of you may know, the high holidays are indeed approaching. It's already Alul now. All of this means that this book was perfect to read today, especially on a Shabbat. I knew I couldn't read it at any other time of the year.

I'm becoming more conscious of religion, of my religion. I realize there is so much to learn and I hope book by book I'll know more. There's so much depth to everything.

This book does a good job. I appreciate that the autho
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I will be rereading this book for the rest of my life.

I'm so grateful that that is the second time this year I've been able to say that. The moment I first stumbled across the title of this book on goodreads I knew that I needed it. Last year, the high holy days were the first services I attended in Edinburgh - not only was I on unfamiliar geographic ground, but I was still on very unfamiliar, anxiety inducing spiritual ground. This book put me right, and will keep putting me right forever. I l
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I really liked the idea that without Freud, there could have been no Einstein, because Freud showed us that the invisible is more important than the invisible, thus paving the way for quantum physics. Interesting idea.
And I was shocked at the fact that WWI began in the Pale, thus displacing many Jews who then became far easier prey in WWII. Why do our history books not mention this?
Also inverting the famous 'those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it" by saying that one must in fact
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are very few books that really change the way you look at things: this is one of them. The combination of Jewish sources and Alan Lew's personal stories, with a little Buddhism on the side, made my holiday season so much more meaningful. It will also make my life more meaningful, as he delves into the differences between happiness and joy, how to embrace suffering as a part of the total human experience, and realizing the beauty of the Jewish calendar as a schedule for improving your life. ...more
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish, spiritual, re-read
For the fourth year in a row I am reading this to get ready for the jewish High Holy Days.And each time I get more out of it.

Getting ready once again ...

It's that time of year aagain.
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was given to me by a friend. I make a point of reading it through the holiday season. Great book to open your eyes to possibilities in the holiday cucle
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, religion
This book is so rich and gave me much to think about during the High Holidays. I'll return to this one year after year. ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-to-reread
This is a slow read because it's so thought provoking. I hope to reread it again on future high holidays to see how different chapters speak to me. ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Alan Lew has put together a wonderful, very meaningful companion to the Days of Awe. Listening to this book over the past few weeks has truly enhanced the way I experienced the High Holidays.

I don’t know much about Alan Lew other than some short blurbs I read about him online, describing him as a Conservative & ‘Zen’ Rabbi. And while this book is very much about the spirit – not unsurprising for someone with Rabbi Lew’s background and leanings - it’s far from hokey. Rather it’s very anchored in
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This took an age and a day to get through but that shouldn’t be a reflection of the book. The author has so much good stuff to say and communicates it in manageable and meaningful ways. I do wish it was less male-centric - nearly every quote or story is by men, about men. Does not come close to passing the Bechtel Test.
Nate Merrill
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I went out of my way to get the first edition, which has this excellent cover, and not the second edition, which has a useless orange blob on the cover. It's very good, the descriptions of the different parts of the extended high holidays as stages on a journey that we go through every year is very good. The end was anticlimactic - his takes on the Tom Kippur haftorah and sukkot were especially inscrutable, which is extra disappointing because those are maybe the two most interesting parts of th ...more
Kimberly Burnham
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation

This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew (Sep 2003)

pg 14 The Power to Change, Understand Differently. What do you have control over?

"The liturgy, however, makes a very different claim, namely that prayer, righteousness, and Teshuvah will not change what happens to us, rather, they will change us.
Robert Monk
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I give it 3 stars for now 'cause I'm only 50 pages in.

I'm finding it a good introduction to contemporary Jewish religious thinking/practice, because of its references and brief discussions of the different holidays and -- as I think -- its way of speaking to the kinds of practices readers are actually experiencing today.

As usual, I also like much of what I learn about the Jewish calendar and the way cycles and time(of year) play into what you're trying to do spiritually at different times.

Some s
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
slow, but thought provoking - a High Holidays version of Campbell's Hero's Journey ...more
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
How did I miss this one? What a beautiful piece with beautiful writing. I somehow had never seen the season described as starting with Tisha B'Av. Lew draws parallels that I never noticed: Herat HaOlam with the death imagery of Yom Kippur. Then Yom Kippur's death imitation to Sukkot's imitation of a house. That "teshuva, tefilla, tzedaka" don't change the fate, they change, as the liturgy says, "ro'a hagezera" - the badness of fate - it makes you see the bad things that happen differently. The h ...more
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