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Prepent 5774: Day 31, Looking Inward

With Yom Kippur fast approaching, a renewed focus on the soul

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(Tablet Magazine)

Journey into the High Holidays with Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Storahtelling and the spiritual leader of Lab/Shul. It’s a daily dose of inspiration to get you focused and ready for the new year, featuring daily intentions, simple tasks, and tools for living better.

One day this past summer, while at the Bronx Zoo with my family, five-year-old Ezra turned to me and casually inquired, “Remember how you said that God is in everything? This apple juice too?”

I nodded; long pause.

“But also grape juice, right? Like on Shabbat?”

“Yes.” I said, “All juices. And also Shabbat.”

And then the conversation shifted back to baboons. I referenced this story in the introduction to the program for the Rosh Hashanah event I hosted at Lab/Shul in New York City. It was my way of framing the complex notions of prayer and God to hall full of people for whom worship is not a given and faith is not a fact. 

And although I am thrilled by Ezra’s internalization of the divine in primal, plausible, and very animistic terms, I admit that I too struggle, like many others, to make room for an honest appraisal of my relationship with mystery in life. I hesitate to even write this as words are so loaded, but yes, I’m talking about talking about God. 

Beyond ritual, invocations, the texted ‘OMG’ exclamations—and way beyond politely responding to a sneeze—what is my connection with the mystery that animates it all, that is known by countless names? How is this reflected in my daily thinking, feeling, doing, and believing—if at all? My intellectual honesty, spiritual curiosity, sense of connection to a greater reality beyond the visible, and my fondness for the tradition I inherited don’t always add up. The doubts are as real as the aspirations for full faith. 

These last days of Prepent, with 30 days behind us and Yom Kippur closer than ever, offer a chance to delve even deeper inward. We’ve looked at the body, emotions, and thinking—our fourth stop is the world of the soul. 

Last weekend Dara Horn wrote about faith in the New York Times, describing the struggles of modern Jews who seek spiritual context to their lives, those “caring less about believing in a supernatural reality than about appreciating the metaphor of the past’s presence. For those with vivid imaginations, that metaphor easily comes alive.”

Apple juice for some, a stern judge for others—what’s your metaphor for God today? Is there room in your life for this conversation? Does it even matter at all? 

Prepent Day 31: Shabbat, a time to rest and think, to contemplate quietly, talk to one another, and maybe even start to open that box. Shabbat Shalom. 

Follow along with the Scroll’s daily Prepent series here.

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Prepent 5774: Day 31, Looking Inward

With Yom Kippur fast approaching, a renewed focus on the soul

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