religion

The Road Between

There is so much that I want from life.

Recently though, I’ve boiled down my prayers to be pretty specific:

If there is one thing I do right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

My prayers don’t end there, certainly not – but each time I turn to G-d I let Him know that that is the key aspect of my prayers. That if He’s unable to grant me anything else I ask for, He still gift me with that.

If nothing else pans out, allow me to still be capable of a loving marriage and raising my children the way I hope.

. . .

I am a spiritual person.

Rosh Hashonah is a very spiritual holiday. Even as a kid, I would look forward to the familiar tunes and prayers said only on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. That excitement has not faded and has only strengthened through a deeper understanding of what the holidays represent.

Over this Rosh Hashonah, I was deeply connected and focused.

I was rudely awakened yesterday as assignment due dates and to do lists came back into focus, and I was reminded that I am not a spiritual being, I am actually so very human.

Our days are made up of so much, our world is made up of even more, and there is no end to the opportunities and challenges that arise each day.

In the end, our joys and our pains are oh so physical, not so much spiritual.

Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur are nice – and more than that, they are truly truly important.

But they are the spiritual half of our journey, and in a way, the much easier part.

I didn’t forget I was human on Rosh Hashonah – I prayed for all the parts that are human in me. But somehow, on Rosh Hashonah, being human was easier.

And yesterday, as I emerged from the cocoon of prayer and spirituality, it was a startling wake-up call to what being human really is about.

Because our life is not made up of enormous life-changing events, like the ones we pray for.

Our life is not made up of graduating college, getting the dream job, getting married, or having children.

It’s made up of all the tiny things in between, the tiny things that are easy to forget about when you’ve got your eyes on the big picture.

But when you face life, those tiny things are exactly what it is.
I prayed for the big things, because they are easier to pinpoint.

Today, I pray for the small things.

As I transition back into my world, suited up with spirituality, I pray that the small things go right. That our lives are filled with the small things that count.
I pray that the big things are so great that I get to appreciate and notice the tiny things.

. . .

At the end of the day, my prayer still stands – if I do anything right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

Yet I mean that in a thousand ways, as it filters down to real life.

All the roads that lead towards it – may they be brightly lit. May all the roads we take in life be brightly lit and filled with joy.

Because it is the road we’re on that that counts. The destinations are important, but it’s the rest stops that make it better. The music we choose, the snacks we eat, the people we put in our passenger seats.

It’s those tiny things that make up life that make life worth living.

And I look forward to G-d granting me these prayers. That ahead of me, I have a life filled with sticky fingers, dirty kitchens, late night deadlines, busy work days, hugs and kisses, aching laughter, days in swimming pools, and a heart filled to capacity.

On Rosh Hashonah, we pray.

And on Yom Kippur, may it be sealed.
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Blog Post 51/52.

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Reclaiming Passover

I want to write a story, but my brain has been too full of to-do lists, too full to be able to fit in characters made out of young men or old women in the times of Egypt.
I want to be inspirational, but my tired fingers don’t have much to say.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the little details, the lists that need to be checked off, the things that go wrong, the scrubbing.
As a kid, Passover was my favorite holiday. I would count down, buy some new exciting outfits, and wait for all my older siblings to come home. I loved all the Passover cookies and meals, the Seder night was a treat, and I’d always fall asleep nearby to the sound of family and friends singing familiar tunes.
But as I grew up, Passover became less and less enticing. The workload involved grew heavier as I became a more responsible adult. The Seder grew more tiring when falling asleep on the couch was not an option. As I began to fall in love with cooking and exploring flavors, Passover represented bland food and limited options. While it still remains an enjoyable time with family, the cons slowly outweighed the pros. The stress leaked out from the 8 days, spreading to the weeks before. Never more than now do I feel surrounded by tired, stretched thin Jewish people, working tirelessly to get to their goal.
What went wrong?
As someone who dearly loves every Jewish holiday and looks forward to each one, even Yom Kippur, it was deeply disturbing to me to realize that a part of me was dreading Passover and all it came with. I pride myself in truly loving my religion, finding joy in the way I live my life, and I was heartbroken to discover this truth.
My social media has been filled with worried, overworked, overtired Jewish women, desperate to be doing it all right.
On one hand, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful that so much care is being given to such tiny details. It’s beautiful that so much work is going into one holiday.
But on the other hand, it’s hard to see the beauty. It’s hard to see the beauty in cuts and scratches, aching backs and tired muscles, sleepless nights and a never-ending feeling of guilt of not having done everything necessary.
Is this what Passover is about? Is this what any holiday is about? Is this what Judaism is about?
Yes, my religion is about consistently going the extra mile. It’s about pushing yourself, seeing the big picture, and working towards bigger goals.
But when things get clouded, when we lose focus, when we are more concerned about the crumbs than about what the crumbs represent – that’s when it feels like we are losing Passover.
The purpose of cleaning our houses of any leavened bread, cookies, cakes, candies etc. represents removing ego from our lives.
How many times did I think about that as I scrubbed?
Sadly, not much.
How many people have I seen, boasting about how hard they’ve been working, or how early they were able to complete their goals?
Sadly, too many.
I would not hesitate to say that ego is the source of all evil.
This holiday represents finding our essence again, getting to the source, freeing ourselves from outside influences, the boundaries of egotistic behaviors, and our self-made limits.
This holiday is a rich and fascinating one, celebrating the way G-d always has His eye on us, celebrating the way we were once slaves but miraculously gained our freedom.
This holiday is about inviting friends and family to join us, to gather and sing, to eat and to laugh, to speak late into the night about who we are, and how we got this far.
Is this holiday about getting on our hands and knees and scrubbing?
Yes. This is how we prepare, this is how we rid ourselves of our ego, of our self-imposed limits.
Is this holiday about stress and tension, panic and anxiety?
No. There is no such holiday in our calendar.
As the holiday officially begins tomorrow night, and as families across the world gather together and sit down for their Seder, I hope that we can all reclaim Passover. To remember what the purpose is, to remember that the excitement we felt as children should still be at the surface of our hearts.
I can not speak for others, I can not feel for others, but I know I will try my hardest to stop focusing on how long the list is, and focus more on what the list is for. Focus on what we are working towards. Focus on ridding myself of my ego to make room for meaningful thought and true celebration.
It is my 21st birthday tomorrow on the secular calendar, and I yearn to have the easy excitement of my childhood, to marvel at each new thing, to reclaim Passover with the untethered joy of a child.
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Blog Post: 28/52

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