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It's Rosh Hashana. Don't Panic.
Mom with a View

It's Rosh Hashana. Don't Panic.

Sometimes the biggest spiritual challenge in preparing for a Yom Tov occurs at the supermarket.


Rosh Hashana is a week away and I haven't even planned my menus yet. This, for me, is a shocking situation. Friends are calling to swap recipes and I have nothing to offer, no comments or suggestions to make. I feel a little off-balance and unfocused.

"What's the big deal?' you may think. The food can be thrown together at the last minute. Not only does that thought send shudders through the soul of every loyal Bon Appetit subscriber, but I think it reflects a mistaken attitude.

When we, as women, complain that we are so busy with the physical preparations we have no time to think of the spiritual ones, we are also missing an opportunity. Everything (almost) can be transformed to a spiritual activity, particularly preparing for Yom Tov.

As we make our menus and grocery lists, we are excited about creating a special Rosh Hashana experience for our family and friends. Delicious foods, attractive presentations, elevate both body and soul. A little extra focus on that special kugel or elegant dessert and we are engaged in hiddur mitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah. It's not just about the food, it's about sanctifying the day; it's about lifting all those around us using the tools of the physical world.

Five minutes is not a lot of time, but it can lead to tremendous change.

Sometimes the biggest spiritual challenge in preparing for a Yom Tov occurs at the supermarket. Everyone is slightly on edge, everyone is a little impatient, some elbows are used inappropriately, some spots in line are mistakenly usurped, someone else grabs that fish head. It's helpful to recite Rudyard Kipling's "If" under your breath: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you..." If we can get through that experience unscathed, still smiling at friends, acquaintances and the cashier, we've already achieved significant spiritual growth.

Then there's the cooking. I hear some moans and groans. I frequently find that in order to focus on areas of personal growth I need first keep my body occupied, calm it down, distract it. Although solitude in the mountains works for some, I get restless. I can't just sit and concentrate on who I am and who I want to be. But if I can get myself engrossed in an activity that doesn't require too much deep thought, I can use that time to introspect. At a minimum I try to maintain the consciousness that everything is being prepared to facilitate the joy of Yom Tov. And nothing makes us happy like chocolate, right?!

Finally, as busy as we are, we all have 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes to read something about the holiday every day, to make a spiritual accounting, to set out goals and plans. Five minutes is not a lot of time, but it can lead to tremendous change. Of course there are many more ways to imbue our preparations with a greater sense of the Divine but I can't discuss them right now. My oven timer just went off, the honey cake needs to come out, the brisket needs to go in, the soup needs to be turned down, I need to run to the store for more eggs and I better call the plumber because the garbage disposal has backed up again...

October 1, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Anonymous, October 3, 2005 12:00 AM

Having just spent an entire Sunday panicking....

This article was a welcome reality check! I'm actually taking my "five minutes" right now, around midnight, when the house is quiet, to read email, catch up on Ten Minutes of Torah, and realize I can finish cleaning the house in plenty of time for erev Rosh Hashanah...

(1) Nechama, October 2, 2005 12:00 AM

New Mother Juggling Spiritual Vs. Physical

This is a great commentary in brief on how to elevate physical preparations of yom tov to the spiritual level however I felt that it was a bit cavalier about this serious day. Rosh Hashanah is not only a yom tov and most certainly is not just another day we must cook and prepare for. It is a tremendous task to care for a family and household, but we do have to worry about our lives on the line just as others do too. I am a new mother going through a challenging period due to other complexities in my life. And as Rosh Hashanah approaches I feel so much is going to be decided in the next few days. I feel awe and fear as the Aseres Yimai Teshuvah arrive. I know there is so much to pray for. How does a mother juggle her desire to elevate the physical to spiritual as well as optimize the day spiritually while caring for a new child. I simply wish to beg Hashem for a better year and to be forgiven for any wrong actions I am responsible for. From a hashkafah standpoint how do I do this task?

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