Your Daily Journal

I listened with interest to Rabbi Lapin being interviewed on another podcast, Kosher Money.

One point he made was: each night write in a journal.

My question is – what do you write?

Is he talking about gratitude journals? Analyzing your day, and what you could have done better?

Thanks.

Wayne

Dear Wayne,

We’re glad you caught the Kosher Money podcast. We’re especially glad that you followed up with a question. Too frequently, we say things and assume we are being clear, while actually we have been vague.

As wonderful and necessary as gratitude is, that was not what I (RDL) was referencing. What I meant was more in line with your second suggestion, though it doesn’t align 100%.

There is a concept in ancient Jewish wisdom called “Cheshbon HaNefesh.” Literally this translates as an “accounting of the soul.” This is really important because unless you’re a professional athlete or a swimsuit model, life success mostly depends not upon your body but upon your soul. How effectively you can control your appetites; how strong is your self-discipline, and how wise is your judgment. These are all things that flow from your spiritual health and that is what you should be monitoring in writing each day. What an amazing way this is to end each day!

We all know how days in our busy lives often run together. Before we know it, a week or even a month or a year has passed. Taking just a few minutes each night to review the past 16 or so hours keeps us grounded. What did we accomplish? What were our successes and failures? Did we unintentionally (or, gasp, intentionally!) hurt someone with harsh language or a cruel silence? What kindnesses did we do? Which of our actions deserves a pat on the back and where do we need to improve? As you can see, simply slowing down for five minutes and reviewing our day reveals a great deal.

There was recently a comic in a magazine targeted to the religious Jewish community that showed one frame after another of women responding to compliments by downgrading their own accomplishments. “Oh, that was nothing,” “It didn’t come anywhere close to what I expected,” “I meant to do more,” etc. The final frame showed a man receiving a compliment and agreeing that he did, in fact, do a wonderful job. I (Susan) laughed out loud.

While obviously both an exaggeration and a stereotype, a nightly accounting isn’t only looking at where one falls short. It might lead a woman to recognize how much she does while it might propel a man to admit that he could have accomplished more. It gives everyone a chance to aim higher and to correct interpersonal mistakes. Having a written record allows us to look back after a month or at the end of the year and (ideally) see our growth.

Since time is the biggest non-renewable resource we have, that nightly reckoning sets us on a path to get a good night’s sleep as well as awakening the next morning committed to making the most of our day.

Pen and paper are your friend,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


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