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Growth Charts

Elisheva Appel

We set out to understand what growth and connection to Torah mean to women, and how that understanding develops with time

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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piritual growth” is a confusing term. Growth is something that can’t be seen, only measured. But what yardstick can measure spiritual growth?

Indeed, our metrics for measuring spiritual growth — even our understanding of what spiritual growth is — develop in surprising ways throughout the course of our lives. We set out to understand what growth and connection to Torah mean to women, and how that understanding develops with time.

In an area as personal as spiritual growth and a woman’s connection to Torah, there will be as many experiences as there are women. Family First spoke to women running the gamut of ages, from families large and small, professional and klei kodesh, in a variety of locales.

Here, the voices of numerous women have been blended to create a mosaic cataloging the thoughts, fears, and hopes common to many women of their decade

 

Twenties

After having spent most of my life in a classroom, it was a shock to be left to my own devices. At first I really missed the forms of avodas Hashem that I was used to. Working in an office, I lost track of the rhythm of the calendar, and felt so disoriented when I didn’t notice Yom Tov creeping up on me. And then, before I knew it, I had a husband, two babies, and everything was different.

The twenties are, in a way, the decade with the most seismic life changes, the ones that determined my trajectory for the rest of my life.

It starts with entry into real life after years of schooling, the old clich? about going from a life of tests to the tests of life. So many of us start out burning brightly with the ardor of youth, trying not to let the cynics dump cold water on our idealism. In the beginning, it’s relatively easy to stay in touch with mentors, find shiurim, learn with friends.

But spiritual entropy is practically a law of nature, and when you’re not immersed in an environment that actively promotes spiritual growth, it’s easy to falter. In school, I had the luxury of time, but now the demands come thick and fast. Between husband, kids, work — who has time for spirituality? It’s like any other relationship. You can talk about how close you are with someone, but if you never see them or speak to them, the spark will slowly die.

 

Among my peers, the ones who best sustained that youthful idealism are the ones who locked in their direction by settling into a supportive environment, whether that was a kollel home or a network of like-minded friends who attend shiurim together. By making ruchniyus the core of their identity, they solidified who they were and were less fazed by the bumps in the road.

Those whose ruchniyus was not the cornerstone of their lives acquired a certain jadedness over time, a disappointment with society’s foibles that manifests itself in a disdain for societal standards.

Now that I had two kids, I barely had time to daven. In place of the sefer that I’d reached for on Shabbos afternoons, I just wanted to chill with a magazine. Instead of high-minded pursuits, I was desperate to unwind a little.

I used to feel very bad about that; lately, less so. My definition of spiritual success has begun to change. Before, I was a good girl because I volunteered for chesed organizations, davened twice a day, and wore skirts four inches below my knee. But I’ve started to realize that speaking patiently to my three-year-old despite my exhaustion might be a bigger victory than visiting a nursing home on a Shabbos afternoon. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 592)

 

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