Over the next 40 days, I will be posting on this blog a series of short daily reflections and teachings to help you prepare for the High Holy Days. I'm calling the project, 40 Days of T’shuvah.
The daily reflections are also a daily journal for you to write down your own thoughts and reflections to help you in the process of t’shuvah – making changes in your life for the better, returning to God, and repentance. You can print the daily reflections out as a physical journal to write in every day.
I'm starting today for.Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, a minor holiday that is a traditional day to begin the process of t’shuvah in earnest. There will be reflections for every day through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I recommend that you make a set time during the day to read and reflect on each entry and to write your brief response. It should take no more than five to fifteen minutes a day. Many people find that the morning is the best time for this.
Remember that a day in the Jewish calendar begins and ends at sunset. If you choose to do this practice at night, do it on the date before the secular date at the top of each page.
You may find that the reflections and written responses are very personal. You don’t need to share what you have written with anyone. Think of this practice as you would think of a diary, a place to write personal reflection, a book to be kept in a private place, something for you alone.
The intention of the questions and suggested practices are to gently guide you toward deeper understanding of yourself and to motivate you toward making positive changes to help you find deeper happiness. It is not, by any means, meant as a substitute for therapy. If you find the questions and practices are bringing up painful or disquieting thoughts or emotions, please consider seeking the help of a qualified professional.
You will notice that there are only three lines for your written responses on each day. This is by design. You don’t need to write an essay. It is sufficient to jot down a few ideas that will help you to solidify your thoughts and intentions, and to give you a way to remember your responses when you review your progress every ten days.
What should you do if you forget a day or fall behind? Just continue with the present day. If you want to go back to read reflections for days you missed, you certainly may do so, but don’t allow that to become a hindrance to continuing. The most important thing is to make some progress right now – in the present moment. You will have your whole life ahead of you to do more.