High Holy Days Journey with Amichai Lau-Lavie: 40 ways in 40 days to find your focus




Isaac and I sit this morning in their backyard in LA and talk about his post Bar Mitzvah life.  He’s turning 14 this September. “Do I have to fast now that I am a man?” he asks, worried. I say that it’s a great challenge and he should give it a shot. Then we discuss his other obligations as an adult in the making – where will he volunteer?


Isaac became Bar Mitzvah less than a year ago, under my direction, as an independent project of Storahtelling’s Raising The Bar program – re-imagining this rite of passage for modern times and for families that are not actively involved with the Jewish community.  He studied his Torah portion and worked on creative interpretations of it for a full year and then stood up to chant and tell and engage the guests in a great conversation about choices and all rejoiced. He did a great job.

But now it’s time to activate another one of his responsibilities – a community project – a six months commitment to volunteer anywhere that interests him, finding real ways to make a difference in the world, to give back, to be a member of the community –any community.


Emerson wrote about it:

“Have you paid to the world as much kindness as you received from early benefactors? It was a sort of baseness to die in the world’s debt. Then, can you not, merely, for the very elegancy of the thing, do an unmixed kindness or two?”


Isaac will work on a list of options before Yom Kippur and email it to me so we can discuss and decide.

And that makes me think about my own commitment to volunteer time, energy, and help in some way to my community. I can get away with saying that this blog is an unpaid service to the community. And when I am asked to officiate weddings or lead baby naming or memorial services and not charge a fee – just a suggested donation to various organizations. But there’s something different about taking time to just roll up sleeves and help out where I’m nothing more than a pair of helpful hands.


Volunteer? One of the item on my list during this time of hyphenated reality between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – the high holy days of making sure I’m as good as I get on my words, intentions, taking care of self and greater Self.


It’s a good time to make commitments.

Can any of you reading this share some ideas of what community volunteer work you’ve been doing and what has seemed helpful and inspiring? Both Isaac and I could use the help.


20 min. report. Been bad. Yesterday didn’t happen with all the flights and programs. Today, I’m just 15 min. from the beach (!) I think a run will happen and maybe, MAYBE, a quick dunk.

Day 35 9.13 CHOOSE LIFE