How to Start the New Year on the Right Foot
By: Rivky Blumenfeld, Lubicom Staff
With Rosh Hashanah a mere two weeks away, there can be a feeling of pending pressure to be on the peak of your spiritual game. This is easier said than done, but with the help of the following women I interviewed, you too can get and stay inspired not just for the Yomim Tovim, but for the whole year. I spoke to Mor Greenberg, (@sugarfreecoating) an ice-skating aficionado who spent her younger years becoming observant. I also talked to Yaffa Palti, a public speaker and teacher, both of whom inspire all.
I posed each woman with the same six questions, and while the answers they gave were individual to their own life experiences, I’m sure that everyone can gain from their wisdom, as I have.
What does the New Year mean to you?
Mor: “Point blank: it’s daunting. Another year has passed, and our time is ticking. I ask myself if I’m fulfilling my mission. I realign my purpose. You have another year, so give it your best!”
Yaffa: “Really, for me it’s an opportunity to breathe, stop and take a pause for a minute. We’re on autopilot the whole year, and now is a moment to stop and recalibrate my existence and ask myself where I’m going. I believe in mission statements for everything, and often ask myself: what do I want to accomplish to make what I do intentional and not habitual? What did I accomplish, and what more can I accomplish this year?”
Do you do anything different in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah?
Mor: “This year, I have a ‘yes’ approach. Life is so busy, and I don’t have a specific shiur to listen to or a person to visit, so I decided to just say yes to when presented with an opportunity to do so. It’s important to say no at times, but it’s equally important to say yes when the chance comes your way. This month for me is “yes” month. If I’m asked to speak, I’ll say yes! Do whatever you can. For me, it takes out the cheshbon hanefesh, because I know I said yes to whatever I could!”
Yaffa: “I try to. As a mother it’s always very hard, and many women have to struggle to try to feel spiritual when trying to make it through the day, making sure kids are fed and the laundry is done. [However,] everyone prioritizes their time, and if you prioritize spirituality you will have time for it. I can cut out little pockets of time. For half an hour twice a week I’ll listen to a shiur and focus on ruchniyos (spirituality).”
What’s one practical thing you do to get ready for Rosh Hashanah?
Mor: “It took ten years of marriage, but I’ve finally realized that I should start planning really far in advance, because you can never be too prepared. Do more physical beforehand, and you can do the spiritual easier. It sounds so mundane, but by being so prepared with cooking and freezing I don’t have that nervousness before bed, and the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah I can be more in touch with my spirituality.”
Yaffa: “I try to take all of the mundane activities and turn them into something a little more spiritual. By trying to elevate the physical into something spiritual, for example, when I’m cooking, I have in mind that I’m doing a chessed by feeding my children. I have a consciousness with whatever I’m doing to make a kiddush Hashem, and I lift my regular activities up a notch.”
How do you give over this message to your family?
Mor: “I didn’t grow up frum, so I was used to fighting for everything. I have had to overcome so many barriers, so for me, seeing that the preparation and feeling of Yom Tov is so embedded in the life of my children it makes me incredibly happy. My kids see me baking honey cake with music on, they see me learning new things, etc. and I’m amazed to see how my children are able to convey Yiddishkeit. We discuss what the children bring home from school, and they get excited for Yom Tov.”
Yaffa: “Insight, intuition, and balance are needed. When you yourself are working on something, your family feels it. When my kids see me wishing someone a good morning, they start emulating me. I will invite my older daughters to a shiur, and they see I’m making an extra effort and I create an atmosphere that children pick up on. Whatever seed you plant, those are the seeds that grow, so I try planting the seeds of spirituality and growth.”
Is there one thing you connect to most?
Mor: “Erev Rosh Hashanah, I’ll write a letter to the Rebbe [she’s Chabad, it’s like going to the Ohel] and I love this time; I’ll take turns with my husband and we will each sit down and write our letter as the other spouse takes care of the house. I feel clarity and connection, and I reflect on the year and what I want from the year to come, I’ll then send the letter to the Ohel.
“Before a big ice-skating competition, I would have the same nervousness that I have this time of year. Am I fulfilling my mission? My biggest fear is not living up to who I can be, my mission. It sets a clear tone; I know what I’m going to be davening for. Taking this moment for myself is a non-negotiable. Along with writing the letter, I work myself into a spiritual state by davening and saying tehillim, it’s like putting fuel in my tank.”
Yaffa: “Personally, I love to teach. My passion is teaching Torah. Everyone should find their passion and turn it into something spiritual. Teaching Torah is already spiritual, and I have so many inspiring moments, like when my students share ideas. Whatever your passion is, is what Hashem gave you to serve him. If you want to know why you’re in this world, see what you’re passionate about and connect to Hashem through the passion He gave you.”
How do you maintain this focus/resolution in the coming year?
Mor: “Almost always one of my resolutions is connected to learning; it’s the key to everything for me. I believe that if you want to be a frum and passionate yid, you need to learn and constantly be connected to Torah. It’s not just knowledge, but a way of life. Attending a shiur or learning Tanya is a must for me. A lot of my friends are frum from birth, and they always tell me it’s so easy for me because I chose to be frum, and they were born into it. But there’s no reason to not choose it now for yourself! Do it in a way that makes you happy, live life and live it fully. If you want to live according to Torah, you have to stay inspired and stay connected.”
Yaffa: “We make grand plans for who we want to be in the New Year. It’s amazing to see how many people sign up for the gym in the New Year, and yet the gyms don’t add new lockers because they know that people won’t come. Change cannot work just from sheer will; you can’t change from will alone. If your circumstances are the same, nothing will change. You have to be able to identify your problem, and then come up with a tangible plan of action. Without a plan, everything is just good intentions that eventually turn into regret when you don’t fulfill what you intended. Don’t negotiate with yourself, just do it. Train your brain – it doesn’t have a mind of its own, the brain only knows what you teach it. By training your brain, everything will become second nature for you.”