Prepent Day 31: Between Innocence and Guilt

Tuesday 10/04/16

Tishrei 2 5777

Dear Rage,

“Every human being should regard oneself as if perfectly balanced between innocence and guilt,” Maimonides wrote in his Laws of Return, giving us this season’s marching orders. “Simultaneously one should regard the world as being in the same case. It follows then that if one performs just one good deed, one has tipped the scales in favor of both oneself and of the whole world, bringing about salvation both for oneself and for all the inhabitants of the world.”

This second day of Rosh Hashana is the second of Ten Days of Return/Response and the response that is called for today is to the same demanding question: How can I bring about salvation both to me and to the world?

On this day I think of you, emerging from within me, quick like flames, in response, gut reaction to a word, a gesture, an email, another driver’s unsafe move. Often you pop up when I do not get what I want.

I honor you for wanting to protect me, my life, security, my pride and sense of self and safety.

And yet our sages said that you are like an idol, worshipped at the expense of alignment with the sacred sense of life with love, compassion, patience, wisdom.

There is time for you and channeling your power: when injustice and cruelty demand that we stand up for rights and love. I’ve channeled you at rallies and protests and I know how right and righteous that can feel.

But the constant, daily instants of the rage in response to whatever provocations pop up needs adjustment and attention. It is hurting, not helping, the way I work in the world. It’s in my brain and there are ways to train, to unlearn rage, to cultivate more calm.

The antidote I find most helpful these days is drops of patience. Not reply at once. Pause to breath. Wait with that txt or email. Promise me, I tell myself today, to be more patient.

What can we each do today to better manage our anger, better balance our innocent and guilty ways of being in the world?

Patiently drip honey on your holy bread and apples. Sweeten our commitments to a year lived with less rage. We thank you for the passion, honor your power and smother you with the sweet product of diligence and patience, hoping for far less sting.



PREPENT: Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s annual journey to the new year, with 40 ways in 40 days to reflect, refocus, recharge and restart life. This year features daily love letters inspired by Lab/Shul’s theme for the High Holy Days, “וְאָהַבְתָּ re:love.”

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This story "Prepent Day 31: Between Innocence and Guilt" was written by Amichai Lau-Lavie.

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