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Beshallah 5783 - Worlds Within Words

Saturday, February 4, 2023 - 13 Shevat, 5783

For two years, I have kept track of my short-, medium-, and long term goals and happenings with Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal methodology. While everyone Bullet Journals differently, my journal contains a Someday Log, a Six-Month Log, Monthly Logs, Daily Logs, and Collections for miscellaneous topics. Some examples of my Collections include a list of Books Read in 2023, a visual map of my street with the neighbors’ names, and a list of people to whom I still need to write thank you notes. 

As a perpetually disorganized person, Bullet Journaling has changed my life in more ways than I thought was possible when I initially started. I now actually remember daily tasks and appointments, and I have an organized way to preserve my scattered thoughts and ideas. Every time I finish one journal and start the next, I have the chance to review months of accomplishments and to prepare for the weeks and months to come. 

The Jewish people are called the People of the Book for good reason; our thousands of years of beliefs and practice are written down in countless books. At the very end of our parashah, after the people Israel defeat the Amalekites in battle, God tells Moshe:

כתב זאת זכרון בספר ושים באני יהושע כי מחה אמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים

Write this as a remembrance in the book, and put it in the ears of Joshua, that I will erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens (Exodus 17:14). 

The medieval commentator Hizkuni explains why God gives Moshe the command to specifically write in a book rather than mere oral transmission: 

שמא יבא לידי שכחה לזמן מרובה

“Lest forgetfulness happen after a long period of time.”

Even before God has given commandments to Moshe and the people Israel on Mount Sinai, God establishes the importance of writing down the people’s intentions and accomplishments. Moshe must write down this victory so that the people can remember their relationship with the Amalekites, the power of God, and their own ability to defeat their enemies. With thousands of years worth of written records like these, the descendents of the Israelites still know that both the commandments and the history are theirs as an inheritance. The Torah is not just an unknown relic, but is ours now and will be our descendents’ for countless generations.

Just as the written word keeps memories intact for thousands of years, the written word can also keep our memories intact for much smaller periods of time. When we write things down daily, we remember not just the menial tasks we intend to do like taking out the garbage or doing the laundry, but we also remember more important tasks like checking in on a loved one or wishing a friend Happy Birthday. By writing things down, we remember quotes we have heard or read for future use, we log ideas to come back to later, and we remind ourselves of how much we can do in just one day. Even for those with flawless memories, when we look at our to-do list or journal entry on paper, we have the chance to learn something about where our priorities lie and whether we need to rethink our plans for the coming days.

More long term than the daily, when we write for the sake of memory, we think beyond ourselves; our words tell stories for those who come after us. Those words might paint a picture of who we were to those who long to recreate our presence. The to-do list or journal entry we write today will be priceless for the historian or descendent who reads it tomorrow.

Through bullet journaling, I have learned the most effective ways to organize my personal thoughts. While I intertwine the emotional, intellectual, and practical day-to-day, many Bullet Journalers keep separate journals for each topic. While the most visually creative aspect of my Bullet Journal is different colored pens for personal, work, and otherwise, other journalers create beautiful calendar spreads and decorate their pages with stickers and illustrations. Others still create their journals on phone apps or online documents. The key for all of us is finding the best ways to organize our thoughts so that we don’t forget, so that we can find a particular spark of inspiration again ten years in the future, and so that our lives can continue to provide meaning for generations to come.

Whether you share your words with the world in your own books or articles or you keep your words to yourself, only to be read by others after you are gone, you have the opportunity to create worlds through your words. 

Thu, April 18 2024 10 Nisan 5784