Friday, August 13, 2010

PREPENT5771: Stare At Your List
40 Days to Find Your Focus

by Amichai Lau-Lavie
Thursday, August 12, 2010

“My children, said my Grandfather, you will never see anything worse than yourselves.” Emerson, the so-called ‘prophet of the American religion’ writes this entry in his journal, circa 1850’s. He kept the journal, for over 50 years, and it’s full of brutally honest confessions, ramblings, and detailed plans for self-improvement. The 37 days left until Yom Kippur is a good opportunity to begin or resume daily journal writing as a form of self-reflection. And it’s a good time for the making of lists. I am a fan of lists, and I will commit to making many on this prepenting process, checking off one item at a time. Today’s list: What are 3 things that I regularly or randomly do and regret? The type of actions that makes me angry with myself for doing them? Big or small, legal or not, self-destructive or unhelpful to the better me I want to be – even if they give me pleasure in some way? Admitting theses to myself, painfully, privately is the first big step. Today’s task. Next step? stare at the list, at myself, as Emerson’s grandfather instructed, and sigh. Some call these items sins, or transgressions, or bad habits. This is what I need to change. Why am I doing this? What purpose do these actions serve? What will it take to modify these patterns? Replace them? What can help me change? I may never see anything worse than myself, but I can also see no better.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas as we move forward and, as always, you may find more information about our High Holy Day services by visiting,


  1. So I want to make this list, and yet I am filled with the almost futility of it. For years, when I cast my sins upon the waters, the same sins go in with the breadcrumbs: impatience, gossip, flaring. Each year I vow to try to do better, and each year the same sins are cast. How do I focus on changing for real? How do I not just make the list and see the same list before me?

  2. Thanks Amichai for this exercise (and anonymous, for your comment). It changed the way I structured my list. I too, have had the same list for years. This time I wrote my list but followed each item on the list with how i might do it differently ... and action steps I could take to change it. And I kept it to four ... those which are most important, tho i know i have many more things I have to change. But if i can really do four this year ... hopefully they won't have to show up on my list again next year. Best of luck on your journey...