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...