Welcome guest Amichai Lau-Lavie of Storahtelling for PREPENT 5771: a 40 day virtual journey in preparation for the High and Holy Days.
"How happy are you, on a scale of 1-10?"
Inevitably, this quiz pops up during check-in phone calls with my mother, thousands of miles away. You can’t lie to mothers, it just doesn’t work, so I often go for a safe six, which seems to be just good enough.
But is it? Yesterday I self-scored seven, but after we hung up I paused to ponder what would really help me score high enough that I not only make my mother smile, but honestly mean it/
I came up with a plan: PREPENT 5771, a 40-day self-reflection project, a journey/crash course/blog/conversation, off and online. PREPENT intends to give focus to those of us so easily distracted, to give those Days of Awe the biggest possibility of being Awesome.
This 40-day ‘self help’ process is based on traditional Jewish methods for the annual period of repentance, but with my personal unorthodox twist: minus the guilt, and with belief in a Deity completely optional and open for discussion. It’s great that this sacred system exists for us each year; an annual internal review board, the ultimate check-in call with Mom and Creator alike, and complete with a real deadline: The Day of Judgment, Yom Kippur. [This year on September 18th, 2010, the tenth day of the Tishrei , the first month of the new year, 5771.]
I like that it takes 40 days to travel within, towards the Day of At-one-ment, into this ritualized simulation of the trial for our lives. In some traditions this day is a dress rehearsal for our death – imagine this is the last day of your life – how would you live it? Some men wear white shroud-like garments as they fast, dead-like, determined to live more fully starting the next day. In some traditions, Shofars– primal and piercing, begin to blow 40 days before Yom Kippur, wake up calls for the soul. Special songs are sung during these days, cooking begins for the holiday banquets, and rabbis write sermons. It’s a time of reckoning, of lists and resolutions, of getting ready for feasting and fasting on the road to more happiness – and change.
This year, when the final blast is heard at the end of Yom Kippur, I want to know, and know deeply, that I pushed through to a higher happiness score. Ten on the Tenth Day. I want to begin this brave new year with more focus, more muscle, and less distraction. This year I will again be joined by friends, old and new, to co-lead the rituals that usher in the New Year in Downtown New York. Shofars will be blown, songs and prayers will be chanted, stories shared, tears shed, connections made. I want to be there; more grounded, more open, able to lead and be led, give and receive, fully present. It’s going to take some work. I’m ready. And I invite you to join the journey.
The PREPENT 5771 journey: 40 ways in 40 days to tip the scales toward happiness. Each day at Jewcy, I’ll write short daily blog entries, complete with tasks and open questions, occasional songs and links, step by step into 5771. I want to think about what’s lost, and what I pay attention to the least, and make lists of all sorts. We’ll hit the (spiritual) gym together, check in with people, and take time out to focus, and to get inspired.
And you? Want to make your own lists, schedule check in time with someone (or with yourself?), or just journey along with me as we move towards the day of self-reckoning. We need friends for this sort of work. We can be each other’s travel companion and witness – reminding each other why we do this work: to be happy, more helpful to each other, better human beings
"We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform. Not a reading man but has a draft of a new community is his waistcoat pocket. I am gently mad myself, and am restored to live cleanly. "
To live cleanly: This is my intention.
Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founder and executive director of Storahtelling, Inc. a NYC based production company promoting Judaic literacy and engagement through original performances and educational programs for multi-generational audiences. He is hailed by Time Out NY as ‘Super Star of David’ and ‘iconoclastic mystic,’ and as ‘one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world’ by the NY Jewish Week. Join him for alternative High Holiday Services at City Winery in Downtown NY. www.higholidays.com