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ימים נוראים | My Ten Days of Repentance Writing Exercise

Ever since I was young, I’ve been uncomfortable with the notion of the 10 Days of Repentance in terms of how it presents itself in the liturgy. I’m not comfortable with the idea of being inscribed in a Book of Life in the coming year, and what’s implied if someone is not. I’m equally uncomfortable with believing that at some point during these holidays, a metaphorical door has closed on me and my chance to repent and make good for the coming year. Some years ago, I decided to re-engage with this time through a personal writing activity. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not nearly as scary as a divine judge deciding whether you’ll make it through the coming year. Anyways, here’s how it goes:

Imagine that you have to spend 10 days in a room with your sins/mistakes/wrongdoings/regrets of the last year:

  1. What would that room look like?
  2. Who or what would be in this room? Would there mostly be people in that room? Actions? Inaction? Thoughts? Decisions? Ideas? Systems? Conflicts?
  3. If there are people in that room, what would you say to them/what would they say to you?
  4. What would it feel like to spend 10 days in there?
  5. What would you do with the time that you had in there? What would you address first? Last?

Now imagine that at the end of those 10 days, whatever you do, it’s time for you to leave that room and close the door for the next year. But you don’t have to close it all the way. Leave it just a little bit ajar.

You may have done all you can for now, but accept the fact that come next year, you might go back that room and be confronted with some of the same things. And when Yom Kippur comes along, you can be the one closing the gates, writing the book. You don’t have to let God make all of the decisions; at the end of the day, so much of it is completely in our own hands.


David Wolkin writes, “I’ve been pushing this writing exercise for a while now, but I taught a class with it in my home on Sunday and it proved to be powerful and connecting for all of us in the room. If you’re reflecting/repenting this season, you might benefit from this.”

"writing in the journal" (credit: erink_photography, license: CC-BY 2.0)

writing in the journal” (credit: erink_photography, license: CC-BY 2.0)

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