I want to apologize first for not posting this in time for it to be relevant in Israel. I seem to be customarily behind in everything again this year.

I am preparing for Shabbos and cleaning for Pesach at the same time, which is actually convenient and productive. But it leads me to try and find a balance between getting ready for Pesach while still really making Shabbos Kodesh

We spend weeks focused on the preparation for Pesach, whether it is shopping, cleaning or simply swapping recipes. At the same time, we need to remember that Shabbat is here and it has its own holy essence that we cannot skip (pass?) over because we are so focused on what lies ahead.

As Rabbi Tatz writes in “Living Inspired“: “There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the tachlis of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentions Shabbos it first mentions six days of work – the idea is that Shabboss occurs only after,because of, the work.”

Shabbat is not just a rest stop in the many-step process of Pesach preparation. It is an end in and of itself to the intense work most of us have been doing this week.

I hope that you can try and be in the moment this Shabbat and celebrate its own holiness and essence. I hope you can impart that to your kids. I hope you can feel even just a little sadness as Shabbat departs Saturday night, and not just relief that you can  get back to what needs to be done before Monday night. I am mostly hoping this for myself, as I know it is going to be a challenge.

My plan is to light the candles and do my best to shut the “to do” list out of my brain completely. While I know we can use the time to learn about and discuss Pesach, I plan to davka spend time with the children on this week’s parsha and on Shabbos itself.

I am not saying we need to divorce ourselves from the time of year. We don’t call this Shabbat HaGadol for nothing.  Interestingly, there are a lot of different opinions as to why it has this name. I am pretty sure it isn’t because of the “gadol” menu and elaborate set -up this particular Shabbat!

The Shibolei Haleket writes about the custom for a lengthy sermon to the kahal this week: “The customary lengthy Shabbat HaGadol speech makes the Shabbat feel long, drawn out, and ‘gadol’.”  Do we want it to feel drawn out to force ourselves to stay in the moment, or does it feel drawn out because we want to get to Pesach?

And if we need to feel that anxiousness, then let it be for our redemption from exile and slavery and NOT anxiousness to get on with the cooking and cleaning!

May you have a focused and meaningful Shabbat Shalom…..

Last lap?

October 3rd, 2010

For me, one of the clearest “punishments” for choosing to live outside of the land of Israel is the three-day yom tov.  Here in the diaspora, September has been a string of holidays chained together by a few work/shop/cooking days.  My guess is that with the holidays coming at the same time as back-to-school and the non-chag days being on Fridays, it didn’t feel that much different in Israel, but no doubt my readers will clarify this for me. (I hope.)

I went into Shabbat morning telling at least a couple of community members that I felt like I was running the “last lap in a very long marathon.”  A month of cleaning, shopping, cooking, serving, cleaning, serving, cleaning, serving…. laundry…. lather, rinse, repeat. The last day had finally arrived.

I was glad that I made it to shul to hear the Rabbi speak, because he really turned the whole day around for me. I am sure he chose his topic the same way he always does; by listening to whatever has been going on inside my head the past few days. I keep asking him to stop eavesdropping on my thoughts when he chooses his sermon topics, but it doesn’t appear to have stopped the habit.

The Rabbi spoke about parashat Bereishit, yes, but he spoke about how in this parsha, in the beginning, is the clearest, starkest way that man can emulate G-d. We rest on the seventh day because G-d did. Period. Wanna be like G-d? Keep Shabbat.

He went on to remind us that yes, it is keeping the Shabbat, but moreso it is being “in the Shabbat” that makes us like G-d. That when we truly dwell in the mindframe and Shechina*-consciousness of Shabbat, then we are emulating G0dliness in the purest form.

He reminded me in that one moment that it wasn’t the “last lap” of anything. The holidays ended the day before. It wasn’t the Shemini Atzeret moment, the Sukkot moment, the Simchat Torah moment, or even a last moment of any of them. It was “mamash the holy Shabbos.” The only thing that made the day the “last lap” was that it was one more day to dwell in G-d’s presence and to stay close before going back to months of normalcy… a normalcy that includes less time and focus on accessing that closesness to Hashem.

I went home determined to be in Shabbat, and to savor the holiness rather than watch the clock for my return to…. everything else. It really changed my Shabbat, and I enjoyed it so thoroughly. I even had a house full of unexpected “stoppers by” and relaxed and enjoyed it. (Despite having nothing left in the house to serve them.)

I felt the sadness as Shabbat left us that I am told people holier than I feel every week. I suddenly remembered a dear friend (and tzadika), DE, telling me one year of the depressing let-down she feels every year at the end of Sukkot. I was very surprised; the only feeling I had ever  registered was relief. At the time I  couldn’t relate to her feeling at all because I didn’t have that kind of relationship with G-d.

I think I was able to connect to Hashem in Tishrei this year more than ever before. My grand theory on this is that since my children are getting a little older I was able to sleep more hours this year than ever since getting married.  I feel very strongly about the relationships between sleep &  religion, sleep & happiness and  sleep & health … but that is a blog post for another time.

But whatever it was, the davening, the sleeping, choosing to have fewer guests (!) or just the wake-up call from our wise Rabbi, I felt like this last day wasn’t a drag, and wasn’t a last lap…. it was a gift.

*The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to “dwell” among humankind, traditionally referred to as the aspect of Hashem that comes down into the Holy Temple and/or comes closer to the Jewish People on Shabbat.

Someone posted this great article on facebook:  “How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day” by Rav Aviner. It is a great guide. I hope to read it every year as a reminder, which means sending it to myself.

… I don’t buy it that one can or even should get it done in one day, and I have already posted that I like the spring cleaning as well as the cleaning for Pesach.  As of today I have unloaded about 10-15 bags of stuff we just don’t want or need anymore. Feels great. Someone else has given me an entire wardrobe for the 4 yo for the coming two seasons. (Thanks, Ronit.)

But the article gives a good perspective, and is blessedly brief. Of course the kitchen is only mentioned in a few lines and we all know that that is where the real work lies. I also think the article is specifically relevant for those living in Israel more than in the US. But Pesach, as all chagim are truly designed to be celebrated in Eretz Yisrael after all. There certainly is truth in the article for the rest of us as well.

Slow and steady seems to be working for me this year, more so in the past, as I juggle the schedule of a work at home mom.

I try – and it is always a goal more than an achievement – to remain focused on the removal of spiritual chametz as I clean and organize and prepare my house. That is, to remove grudges, old patterns, and the “yeast in mitzvot” which was explained to me this Shabbat by the very wise Rabbi Aaron Gruman, means that which allows us to get “puffed up” without doing much of anything. The combination of arrogance and laziness.

Someone created a facebook group called “facebook is chametz”. If one goes by Rabbi Gruman’s understanding as it was explained to me, then facebook definitely qualifies. It certainly allows me to become a) self absorbed, and b) very lazy  - all at the same time. I am going to try and stay fb free for as long as I remain chametz free this year.

I have been making a lot of  LISTS. Lists are what I do when I have lots to accomplish and no energy with which to do so. The lists help me organize that which I have to do, even if I am just too tired to actually do it.

I hope you are all making good progress; perhaps you are too busy to be reading my blog. :  )

I also hope you will let me know what you think of the article.

I love Pesach

March 16th, 2010

Pesach is my favorite holiday, with perhaps the exception of Shabbat. It is also the time of year I miss Israel most, but that is for another post.

Funnily, I think Purim is consistently my least favorite. But I love Pesach. As with most things, I don’t think it is for any one specific reason. I love that spring is coming. I love sending the kids outside. I love to cook. I love the children’s enthusiasm for the seder. I probably wouldn’t like the preparations as much if I had to use china and then clean it, or if I had to bake a lot of Pesach desserts. I don’t bake during Pesach. No one likes the way most of it tastes, and I have never gotten my family hooked on the good stuff, so they don’t really know what they are missing.

….I also love Pesach cleaning.

Every year I am reminded, along with everyone else, that “Pesach cleaning doesn’t mean you have to do Spring cleaning”. But I love spring cleaning. I am sure this is because I hire myself help to do it with.

I love the fact that for the spring cleaning part I only have to get through as much as I get through. I love the lack of clutter, the putting things in a place. Giving things away we no longer use. A fresher smelling, feeling house.

My office usually gets crammed with chametz/non pesach stuff I can’t fit anywhere else and locked up for the week of Pesach. Sold. As a result, it is the least cleaned room in the house. This year I did that first, and I just love the feeling. I actually want to go in my office again. I am perfectly aware that we aren’t eating in there, and that the beads on the floor aren’t crumbs. Still, the cobwebs and dust are gone, the lost checkbook found, and I can move on to cleaning actual chametz with a better feeling.

Check back next week as Pesach gets closer; most likely more of the last minute stress will be getting to me and my back won’t feel quite as good.

In the meantime, the sun is shining after two days of floods and storms and doom and gloom and all the stray lego lost in 10 rooms is slowly making its way home.

I love Pesach.

Clutter — Mess — Melt down

December 28th, 2009

I am starting to begin the process of losing it. I cannot find two important keys in my house.  The keys, for me, were the proverbial straw on the camel’s back this evening.

I usually don’t make it all the way to losing it. I try to stop somewhere before rock bottom. I don’t like what the downward spiral does to me or my behavior, so I usually see it as a wake up call to change something. Or some things. And there are some things that definitely have to change.

In the earliest part of my marriage I had to adjust to living with someone who was less interested in order and neatness than I am. I wish the consequences of the chaos were all trivial, and issues of toothpaste covers. But they weren’t. We worked through it a lot, and we have both adjusted over the past eleven years… but most of  that adjustment has been organizing everything on my own and making DH stick to it, and/or taking his stuff and finding places to hide it where I won’t have to look at it.

We have been in our current house for six years this week. Wow. Six years. There was a time when I didn’t know if we would ever be able to buy a house. And there was a time when I didn’t think we would be able to fill it. Hah! The amount of places we have managed to stick clutter would be downright impressive if it weren’t so painful to live with.

I do the very best I can to stay on top of seven kids, but I am far, far outnumbered. There is too little sleep, too little time, too little help, too little supervision, did I mention too little time? and way, way too much stuff to keep it all in order the way I would like.

It is no longer just a matter of the toys not being put away properly. Someday, SOMEDAY I WILL find all of the Othello pieces and put them back in the board.

Now it is a matter of filing 2009 as we go, not sometime before April 15th in 2010.  It is knowing where my keys are. It is the feeling that I know where important stuff is, and that it is in the places it should be, so that I don’t have to get so stressed about the placement of the unimportant things. I have a drawer with crafts, markers, scissors and glue in the eat-in part of my kitchen.  It isn’t very orderly, but it is quite useful for now. I am okay with that.

I have a pile of cassettes on a bookshelf that is full of books… I don’t think it looks very good, but I can live with it being in the “someday” category for now.

I have done FLY lady – who I like and am not knocking – and ask anyone who is around me in my house. I am picking up while I do just about absolutely everything else.

Perhaps the tipping point as of late is because we have been in the same place for so long now that the accumulation has gotten really bad.

Perhaps it is because my children have all taken a big leap forward this year, and I know intuitively that the time for my picking up after them constantly really has to come to and end. And the only person I can blame for allowing everyone to get used to that is me.

I am determined to find a place for everything this year, or throw it out. Then I am going to actually expect my children to start putting things in those said places, and my husband too. I might even have to start expecting it more of myself. I am going to have to NOT achieve neatness by doing it for them quickly and efficiently, but by having the patience to make them get in the habit of doing it themselves. I will have to hope that the 20 month old, at the height of the “destructive” phase of life, thank G-d, starts to copy them in this behavior as much as he does all others.

I know intellectually that this ‘training’ will require more energy in the short term, but greater returns with less work in the long run. It just feels like a lot of energy in the short term.

New Year, new changes. We are no longer in a new house. We are no longer a house full of toddlers. Time for a new set of rules, a new way of doing things…..

… it sounds good now while they are all asleep and I am able to sit down…. but I would rather be determined, than having a melt-down.