With seminary days long gone, a mother today can still find Yom Tov inspiration.
Picture a young girl, all of 16 years of age, waking up at 5:30 am to walk to a shul that is 1 hour away. Uphill, I might add. No, this wasn’t the only shul available. This particular girl decided to walk, on both mornings of Rosh Hashanah, just because she preferred the davening in the Lucern Yeshiva as opposed to the one in the city’s shul. This girl stood in shul until the very end of the day, and then walked right back to Seminary, uplifted by the inspiration ready to do the same thing again, the next day.
This girl was me. And today, my extent of Rosh Hashanah davening consists of 14 ½ minutes inside the walls of the closest shul to my house, 14 ½ minutes of me shoving Fruit by the Foot into my toddler’s mouth so that he shall be busy (and quiet) while the shofar blows. And when that’s done, home we go. Maybe the park.
“I should have listened more and daydreamed less. Soaked in all those wonderful, insightful classes. Appreciated the opportunity of incredible teachers, sharing their wisdom with us, seminary students. Had I known these lessons would have to last me for literally a lifetime, I would have paid better attention.” Ever said these sentences to yourself? I have.
Come every Elul, for my first few years as a married woman, I found myself somewhat resentful. Where was my inspiration? My heartfelt selichot at the crack of dawn? The feeling of teshuva in the air? That Elul spirit that had me going for my teenage years…it was gone. Replaced by lots of guilt, and a foggy brain that tries to remember if I bought the right socks for the right outfit on my fourth trip to the hosiery store.
Not Gone…Just Different
Slowly, with the years, I made peace with the fact that my role has changed. It took a while, but it happened. I came to realize that I am a mother now, and am eternally grateful for that. My role is in the kitchen, preparing for Yom Tov. It’s in the playroom, davening Kol Nidrei while removing sticky lollipops from freshly washed hair. In the hosiery store, picking the right socks to complete the outfit so that my family will be ready to receive the New Year in their finest. And there is no shame in that.
I davened well, in those teenage years. I enjoyed each tefillah, stood in shul from the very beginning to the very end, and came home fulfilled. The kind of sweet fulfillment that only avodas HaShem achieves.
Now, I am fulfilled too. I learned to find my Chodesh Elul inspiration, once again. It is a different kind of fulfillment, sure, but it’s just as wonderful. I find it when baking honey cupcakes with my children while singing “Dip the apple in the honey,” by preparing a menu that gets everyone looking forward to Yom Tov, by taking pride in a beautifully set Yom Tov table or arranging flowers to adorn the home. This has become my inspiration.
Can Kitchen Time Be Uplifting?
Just being in the kitchen can be inspiring too.
While I work in the kitchen, in those late, quiet hours, I have time to think. Think of the year that has passed, remember who we lost and who we gained, what happened and what hasn’t happened although we davened so hard. Think of the year to come and what we hope to accomplish.
Besides, I use the time in the kitchen to listen to shiurim. The Chazak hotline (718-906-6416) is a great resource on those late nights when it is too early to call Israel and too late to call anyone local. Otherwise, I like to catch up with friends and relatives I usually don’t get a chance to talk to throughout the year so much. I enjoy calling teachers from the good old days as they kind of expect my call by now, and we both look forward to it. All this while peeling potatoes, or dicing apples.
One’s attitude towards preparations can also impact how everyone else in the family views Yom Tov. Preparing for Yom Tov in a joyful, excited manner, will have everyone in the house looking forward, and maybe, even helping with the process. This is something I learned from my own Ima. She never complained about planning, shopping, cooking, or cleaning. Any work leading to Yom Tov was exciting and a privilege. Nothing too hard. A three-day yom tov? Not a word was mentioned. She just put more effort into the menu, making sure it remains fresh and appealing, never serving the same thing twice.
This was the best gift a mom can give to a daughter. I approach each Yom Tov with energy and excitement, looking forward to the family time and thinking of ways how to make it special. Putting effort, thought and heart in the Yom Tov prep, literally changes the air around the house. It’s contagious.
So yes, today I cannot spend these holy days in Shul, with only my tefillos to focus on. I rely on my husband and teenage children for that. What I could do, is help them, by providing a positive atmosphere, inspiring them to enjoy and cherish their avodah while I enjoy mine.