Seeking Inspiration Beyond the High of the High Holidays

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Dear Rivkie,

 On the one hand, I am relieved that all those three-day Yom Tovs are behind me, what with the cooking, cleaning, serving, and mandated family time. On the other hand, there are a lot of fun family and friend times that go with them, not to mention the spiritual elevation that accompanies Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, especially. I want to get back to my “normal” schedule (I am certainly looking forward to my kids finally getting back to school), without losing my sense of being immersed in Judaism and spirituality.

 

How can I keep feeling inspired in our current holiday-free month of Marcheshvan and beyond?

Signed,

Searching Suri

 

Dear Suri,

Well, Suri, that is an excellent question, and thank you so much for asking. With the anticipation of Yom Tov, we look forward to a period of a lot of shul, work, quality (or at least quantity) family time, and shared meals with friends. On a more spiritual level, we use this period as one of introspection, making amends with those we have hurt, and thinking of ways we want to better ourselves in the year to come — and, ultimately, get ourselves inscribed and sealed in the book of life. After all the thinking, self-examination, davening, sukkah-ing, finishing and restarting the Torah, and making and serving a million meals, it’s natural that our heads are spinning at the end of it all. Where do we go from here?

It is crucial that we don’t just forget all that we’ve learned from this Yom Tov season. Here are some ways to keep the momentum while moving on to the rest of the year and the enjoyable months ahead (Chanukah, anyone?):

Try to commit to some learning this year. If you already have a regular shiur (lecture) or two, good job! Keep at it. If not, try to fit one in at your local synagogue or community study group. Tune in to the Yeshiva University Torah podcast or TorahAnytime.com. Learn with a friend over the phone or have your kid tell you what he/she learned at school that day. Every little bit counts.

Remind yourself of the things you committed to working on right around Rosh Hashanah time. For example, if you resolved to try to stop screaming at your kids (of course this isn’t my resolution EVERY SINGLE YEAR, sigh), maybe make yourself a recurring reminder on your phone. I would recommend setting it for right around dinner/bath/bedtime — something along the lines of “I know your head is about to explode, but remember not to scream.”

Take on one new mitzvah that you either didn’t do or weren’t so diligent about last year. Do some bentching (Grace After Meals), bikur cholim (vising the sick), or something bein adam l’chaveiro (between man and his fellow man). Or all three!

Finally, take time to enjoy the rhythms of the Jewish year. This might sound cheesy, but when I first became religious, one of the things I most appreciated about frumkeit was its predictable cycles. Every seven days, we have Shabbos. Every month begins with Rosh Chodesh. Every Tishrei brings all those holidays we just finished. Kislev gives us Chanukah. You get the gist. But try to do something special to mark Shabbos a little differently. Or plan a Rosh Chodesh get-together with some friends. Institute something new this year to appreciate the gift of being Jewish.

So, Suri, enjoy 5778 and do something unique to appreciate this year. Remember how lucky you are to be a Jew, and especially the inborn spirituality you are given as a Jewish woman. Have a sweet, healthy, and spiritually productive year.

All the best,

Rivkie