Today we had our lunchbreak webinar:
Tishrei: Tools & Techniques for Family-Friendly Festivals
Devorah Levine Katz of Challahcrumbs.com and I spoke about practical tips on how to capture the spirituality of these days while juggling work, menus, davening, family and guests.
The overarching theme of the class was this: “The little things are infinitely the most important.”
We discussed that fact that, ironically, Elul is actually a time where we don’t need to work so hard. It is a time where Hashem lovingly calls to us to return to him. It is a time of rejuvenation a time where we breathe new life into our relationship with Him. It is a time of love, Ani Ldodi Vdodi Li, I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me. It is a joyous time. Instead of being anxious, we can appreciate that we, as Jews, have a special time in the year where God gives us the gift, the opportunity, to remake ourselves into better versions of ourselves. It is a time of focusing on spiritual growth.
During Elul and Tishrei, every attempt that we make to connect with Hashem, through our tefilot and mitzvot is appreciated as if we worked harder than we have. God desires us to be close to him, especially during this time period
God just requires us take the first step, and put in the smallest effort. He will then take us by the hand and help us to do what needs to be done. The Midrash in Shir HaShirim Rabbah says: “Make me an opening the size of a pinhole,” says God, “and I’ll make you an opening big enough for carriages to drive through.”
Hashem does not want extravagant, grandiose or over the top gestures. He just wants a small, sincere move towards him. That can even just mean thinking: “The high holidays are coming and I want to be a better person this year.”
This can be comforting to us parents. We don’t need to do a lot. With just a little bit of work, we can make the most out of this time period.
One thing that we can do is to simply be mindful:
According to my teacher Mrs. Miriam Barkin, everything that we do, as Jews, we need to do with the intent that we are serving God. During this time, we want to keep this in the forefront of our minds. A foundational principle of Judaism is this: Every mundane act we do, from changing diapers, washing our floor, to getting the oil changed in the car, can be elevated to the spiritual.
During Elul we want to be more cognizant of this.
For example, when putting in effort to go to sleep on time we can say, “I am going to sleep, because I want to be well rested, I want be strong and awake tomorrow, so that I can serve G-d better. It is Elul and I want that connection with Hashem.”
Similarly, the simple things that we do everyday without thinking are really mitzvahs, smiling at your grocery keeper, keeping your lawn mowed and neat, picking up your neighbors newspaper when they go out of town and refraining from gossip. The mitzvahs that are most often overlooked are the acts of caring for our children and spouses. We often forget this. Those endless chores and tedious household tasks are mitzvahs. We can use Elul and Tishrei to remind ourselves of this and tell ourselves:
- Making others feel good is a mitzvah and smiling is a part of that.
- Taking care of my family is a mitzvah and doing laundry is a part of that.
- Giving my children an education is a mitzvah and school-supply shopping is a part of that.
- Creating a calm and clean home is a mitzvah and washing the floor is a part of that.
If you missed our class, click on the link and check it out here:
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.