Gush Etzion, holiday, Pinat Chama, reflection, Rosh Hashanah

Cultivating the Spirit

Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner, and I always start to feel like I haven’t prepared myself for the holiday ahead. I don’t go to shul in the morning every day like Josh does; I don’t say slichot; I don’t learn every day like many people I know; I don’t have (or make?) the time for much personal reflection.

And as the chag approaches, there is so much pressure to get the mundane errands done and to complete tasks.

When I was feeling frustrated about my lack of spirituality today, I decided to stop for a few minutes and reflect on the ways that I AM getting ready for the chag spiritually. And here is what I realized.

Last night, Josh and I wanted to get out of the house for a bit. We’ve had a crazy few weeks with the start of the school year and felt the need to just get away and be together. We debated for about two minutes where we should go, and then it hit both of us – the Kotel (the Western Wall).

And while we were there, with floods of people from all walks of life, it hit me how truly special our choice was. We could have gone to a movie; we could have gone out to dinner; we might have gone to the mall and done errands and shopping. Instead, we went to one of the holiest sites in the entire world to daven (pray) for a beautiful year ahead. I davened for our family near and far, and also for a number of special women in my life who have been dealt very difficult health cards in the last year. And I thanked Hashem for the bounty that I’ve received in my life, while asking for it to continue for me and for it to be offered to those dear to me. It was a beautiful night.

Then, as I walked home with Yakir today, I spent the entire walk talking to Hashem and thanking him for the moment that I was experiencing. I felt the squishy, deliciously fat skin on my baby’s hand as I cradled it in my own; his pudgy little fingers were grasping mine and his cheeks were gently bouncing as he stepped. And I thanked Hashem for giving me moments of this sort, and for allowing me to recognize how precious a simple walk home can be.

Later in the day, I ran into a friend at the grocery store who was recounting how stressful her grocery shopping was that day. As she said, “I took the day off of work and I said to myself that I had all day. I had no kids with me, no hurry to worry about, and a grocery list. But it was crazy! The store was packed and other people’s kids were screaming and I felt rushed and tense.”

Laughing at her description (laughing with her, that is), I said, “Yep. But you know what I decided? Things aren’t this crazy when we prepare for the holidays in America because not everyone is celebrating. It’s just a regular Thursday there. But here? You’re feeling crazy and crowded because the whole country is crazy and crowded and on edge! What a blessing! We’ve chosen to come to a place where we are all celebrating the same holidays together at the same time. It’s such a blessing. Crazy, yes. But still a blessing.”

And we both giggled as we walked out of the store saying, “I’m so stressed. What a blessing! There’s so much to do. What a blessing!”

Then, this afternoon, Josh and Zeli went to a nursery and picked two beautiful trees for our yard. We have dreamed for a number of years now of growing our own fruit, in our own backyard, in Eretz Yisrael and we are finally doing so. We have a pomegranate tree and grapes already. Now, we will have a cherry tree and a mulberry tree (yes, the song is wrong). The boys helped out as Josh dug the holes and planted the trees and we all stood around with anticipation and excitement, remarking at how little they look now and how grand they will (hopefully) be someday.

And tonight, I’ve been flooded with deliveries from yishuv members, dropping off their delicious and beautiful cakes for the Pinat Chama. This little house in Gush Etzion is a location where soldiers can come throughout the day for a drink and a slice of cake. Each month, groups throughout the Gush bake for them and tomorrow I’ll be delivering loads of fresh baked cakes from my group and wishing the soldiers a Shana Tova as we thank them for all they do for us here.

So, no, I haven’t gotten ready for Rosh Hashanah in some of the traditional ways. But as I reflect on what I have been doing, I see that my heart is in the right place and that I look forward to the beauty of the year ahead. And I pray that Hashem will allow me to continue noticing these less-noticed moments and to appreciate their worth for the year ahead.

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