Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days: A Guided Journal Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days discussion


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Guided Journaling for the High Holy Days

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message 1: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Every year, I try to go through this whole book starting 1 Elul, and I have trouble doing it alone. So I thought I'd start a discussion about it and see if I could help myself and others.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I just ordered a copy right now. I'll do it!


message 3: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Great, the more the merrier!


message 4: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Remember to start reading tonight-It's Elul 1


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

My book's not here yet. I'll catch up when it does!


message 6: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Ok! to get you started, you can read Psalm 27 from whatever source you have it. We are supposed to read it every day during Elul.

Today's topic is "The path of t'shuvah is illuminated by divine light."

We are supposed to realize that without true regret, our apologies mean nothing. However, we also need to forgive OURSELVES.

The book says "Today we begin only with ourselves, unafraid to confront our previous exploits." I would say that we also need to think of the positive things we've done the last 12 months. "Taking stock" shouldn't just mean looking at the negatives. We need to see where we truly balance.


message 7: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Elul 2. Topic "Hard Questions will yield holy answers."

The book reminds us that we have reason to be afraid of confronting our true selves, and that it's easy to just be superficial. But we need to confront our yetzer harah.

This is really hard for me, it's easy for me to think I'm worse than I am. So I have to work to walk that tightrope between confronting the bad bits of myself, and wallowing/over thinking them.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Psalm 27 indeed opens on a high, high note, despite its moments of fear, doubt, anxiety, and anger we are to see.

In my translation ...

"The Lord is my light and my help;
whom should I fear?"

In the Hebrew, the same word for "fear" here (as in fear of another person) is the word used to express "fear of God," or what is often translated as "being in awe of God."

Whom should we fear? We are stable. Our path is lit. We are helped. It reminds us, we are never alone. If only accompanied by ourselves on this trip, we're never alone. But think of all the other seekers in the Jewish community and elsewhere striving to right their wrongs? We are billions of strivers.

Let's go!


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Elul 2.

Thryn wrote: "This is really hard for me, it's easy for me to think I'm worse than I am. So I have to work to walk that tightrope between confronting the bad bits of myself, and wallowing/over thinking them."

We will reflect on the past, but only in order to fix what we've broken, to soothe the hurts we've caused. I'm thinking of how I've been closed off to people, fearful of making new friends, how sometimes that leads me to hide inside myself, keep myself safe. I'm thinking of my petty irritation with my wife sometimes, and I want to learn better and better how to live IN my marriage, not ALONGSIDE my marriage.

She's coming home soon, and I'll get a chance to tell her this.

"Hard questions yield holy answers."

This is what we're promised, but delving into our sins, our failing to hit the mark of good deed/good action/attempts at holiness ... well, that's hard to swallow. It hurts to look back. But regret and guilt is such a beautiful thing when it's something we can fix in the past or something we can change for the future.

We are so full of hope. The beginning of Elul never gets me down. It's the bone-crunching heaviness of the personal and congregational confrontation of sin on Yom Kippur that's hard for me.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Bless you, Thryn, for bringing my attention to this book! It's so compact and friendly.


message 11: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G You're welcome! And thank you for reading along with me! Knowing I need to post something will keep me on track (I hope!)


message 12: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Elul 3. The theme is "Spiritual Growth is possible when we let go of our past in order to reclaim it."

Again, something very difficult for me. I have a very hard time forgiving people for things they have done, especially if they have no remorse.

At what point does it become MY problem?

The book says "So, 'whom should we dread?' Only the self we used to be-if we allow it to prevent our becoming a new self."

I read that to mean that we need to be willing to be our better selves, even if we haven't chosen that path in the past. Choose a different way to be, when confronted with the same situation.

Very difficult, and something I am intending to be very mindful of this year.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Alan Watts, one of my favorite philosophers, encourages people to think of the NOW as the only reality. The past is just ripples in our wake. Every moment of every day is a chance to remake yourself into something new.

Elul 4, our first Shabbat Elul day! And, that's right, I'm writing on Goodreads--very un-frum!

"By doing t'shuvah, we can look in three directions at once: to God, to self, and to others."

I think every good deed (commandment to goodness) and sin (missing of the mark) we commit is tied to all three. Just one of them jumps out more than the others. Judaism's is rich with the idea that doing wrong to God will cause the self to suffer. The Tanakh is full of stories where one person does a wrong against God or someone else and LOTS of people suffer. And when we do wrong to ourselves, when we fail our biggest dreams, highest hopes, and inner move to do good, we crush our potential, what many would all "God's plan for us."

This is all a reminder that the abuse we heap on ourselves, on others, and on God must stop. It's time to remake ourselves, as you said, to be our better selves. We're in there somewhere screaming to come out! :)




message 14: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G I like what you had to say about Elul 4!

My comments on Elul 5 & 6:

I'm not sure I agree with what the book says on Elul 5. Basically, that if you change yourself to be better, everyone around you will change in response to you. I'm sure it happens sometimes, but I have a fairly horrendous family, and there are definitely people who would use anything I said in the way of t'shuvah against me forever. Them, I don't even try. But there are other people, I DO talk to. And there should probably be more.

Elul 6, I can think of several things I need to do to 'recreate myself' and work on not being loathesome to myself. Gossip is a big one.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Stopping Lashon Hara is the proof-in-the-pudding that brought me to Judaism, as a convert, in the first place. It really does work. I felt better about myself by not saying bad things about people if I didn't have right intent and to the right people and at the right time.

Elul 5: "We can change them only by changing ourselves."

Thryn, I definitely see why you read this one way. I read it another. It doesn't say we WILL change them. It just says the only way we will EVER be able to, ever CAN change others, is by changing ourselves. If they're mean, maybe we need different boundaries and that will bring better behavior from them. But some people are just toxic, selfish, cruel ... but if we step back, as the book says, and recognize our tormentors as people like us, we may feel some connection to them as human beings. But at a distance. Sour relationships require distance. They may never mend. People may never behave kindly. But distance will help and making sure we don't bring on any of the agony ourselves by working to change THEM. That only brings misery to US. T'shuvah is about God and others, but mostly about ourselves and our role in our relationships and the universe. What can WE do to fix things? Sometimes there is no fixing a relationship, only ENDING one. If it's family, that's so much more difficult.

I ramble.

Cheers! And good soul-searching ... :)


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Elul 6: I have felt and sometimes feel so disgusting, lowly, unworthy, and broken. It is heartening that this has been happening for millenia. We have suffered, as human beings, with conscience for our cruelty and bad behavior since the dawn of consciousness, to some degree or another.

And that guilt seems like SUCH a BURDEN. It makes us feel so BAD. But if it leads us to change our ways so that we LIKE ourselves, so that we do what to do what is GOOD by our OWN conscience as well as what we learn from others about to lead a GOOD life, well, then all that pain can become suffused into hope for the future.

That re-creating.

It's little steps that do it, because we do so many things wrong or thoughtlessly. But little steps are good.

One of the rabbis said that on the ladder to Heaven, he thought the man at the bottom of the ladder moving up was better than the man near the top who had stopped. If we continue to recreate ourselves, if we are moving up, we are doing the good Jewish work. We will never be perfect; we cannot aspire to divinity. All the sins of matriarchs and patriarchs scream that to me from the Torah. Nope, we're ALL fallible, we ALL are brought low at one time or another because we knowingly or unknowingly did something WRONG, missed the mark.

But the hope that we can be better? THAT is good. And ONLY if it motivates us to ACT better.


message 17: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Hi Brendan! I like your perspective on Elul 5! (oh, and I converted too-and so did my husband)

Ok, I got behind yesterday. So here's Elul 7 and 8.

"Miracles can be found only when we're ready to look for them."

This is so true. If we're walking around with our heads down, we miss so much. We can walk around thinking there's nothing good going on, that nothing is happening, that there are no miracles. But if we look up, and pay attention, the world opens up.

"Embarrassment and regret pave the road to change"

Difficult for me. I feel the embarrassment and regret, but I have trouble with it leading to changes. I have to consciously remember that the last time I did [whatever:] it led to regret, and to choose a different path this time. I'm working on it!

Oh-btw-I will not have ANY internet access from Aug 29-Sept 2, so I'll have to catch up when I get back. Sorry-I'll be visiting in-laws who don't have a computer.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Elul 7

Right on, Thryn. I couldn't agree more. I didn't come to God, god or Judaism to see miracles or believe in miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, the pillars of cloud and fire in the Israelites' march through the Desert, or the plagues. Or wrestle with an angel. No, it was those LITTLE miracles, that sense that little wonderful things are happening all the time. Some of the wonderful things, strangely enough, are that things die, that we suffer. In my Franklin planner today, the "affirmation" or catchy inspirational phrase starts: "I wish you sunshine on your path and storms to season your journey." What would life be like without pain, regret, hurt? It becomes too much to bear sometimes, but we can only hope to heal others' hurt. We can't hope for miracles, but we can call the beautiful things we see working and living and shining in the regular life miracles.

Let's take the word back. Miracles for all!


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Elul 8:

"Embarrassment and regret pave the road to change."

I love psychotherapy and counseling. They helped me learn that many of the things I was embarrassed about or regretted were inconsequential. I had been suffering for no reason and need to feel better about myself. After recalibrating my brain and conscience, I have a better time using embarrassment and regret to shape who I am and when I should feel bad about real sins. Sins against myself, my loved ones, and strangers.

But for perfectionists like me, the first step is recognizing that embarrassment and regret as PURE EMOTION cannot always be trusted. We have to use our mind, our cognitive abilities, to sort out where we've truly failed and where we're just beating ourselves up.

Shabbat shalom!

L'shalom, chaverim!


message 20: by Thryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Thryn G Ok, we've fallen behind again, haven't we? I was out of town for a week and realized after I left that I didn't bring my book. And despite my best intentions haven't picked it up again.

I am going to make a concerted effort to pick it up tonight and try to catch up, even if I don't post something about each day.

How about you? Have you been reading?


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

OK, I confess: I fell completely behind. I had to get ready to teach 3rd grade Hebrew for the first time in my life to TWO different batches of 20 kids. I barely survived my first trip to the Sunday School Thunderdome. Then I decided to become a lawyer a couple of weeks ago and started studying for the LSAT in December.

Now I'm on the cusp of Rosh haShanah, and I'm behind on this book.

But the rabbis tell us we should repent every day, as if every day is Elul, every day is Yom Kippur. So maybe I'll be OK.

But we did a good job TRYING to do it! Maybe we should continue through and after the High Holy Days? What day are you on?


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