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The Busy Woman’s Guide to Maximizing Elul

Elisheva Appel

We’re blessedly busy, and spiritual preparation for the Yamim Noraim often gets neglected. With a little determination, we can add teshuvah to our daily routines

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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SERVICE, PLEASE Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, world-renowned Jewish women’s educator, sums up the core focus of the day as the joy of crowning Hashem King over ourselves. “It’s the simchah of saying, ‘I want to serve Hashem!’ ”

H ours of introspection. Impassioned recitals of Lamnatzeiach and awe-inspiring shofar blasts. Forceful exhortations to teshuvah during the critical moments before Ne’ilah. This is the stuff that the Yamim Noraim are made of, and we all recognize these moments...from a hazy, distant era, back when we were eager students who spent hours with a Shaarei Teshuvah and lapped up shiurim in preparation for the season.

While back-to-school shopping, caring for generations above and below us, and putting bread on our tables are all worthy pursuits, they combine to make accessing eimas hadin exponentially more difficult.

For many women, the frustration is not an intellectual dissonance. They know where their place is at their current stage of life, and they have no problem cleaning up spilled cereal instead of shuckling to the strains of Unesaneh Tokef. However, there remains a niggling feeling of missing out on something important.

Of course, women don’t have a monopoly on feeling harried and overworked. The average male head of household is likely just as torn by all his daily demands. “Men are also struggling to step out of their mundane activities. Their daf yomi shiur doesn’t necessarily give them tools to prepare for Yom Hadin,” says Rebbetzin Sarah Feldbrand, longtime mechaneches and author of over a dozen books on self-improvement.

She points out that in a sense, women actually have a marked advantage when it comes to breaking the cycle of rote avodah. “It’s my belief that we find teshuvah easier, for we naturally communicate both with ourselves and with Hashem better and more often than men do. Our days are full of the ‘please, help, and thank you’ kind of tefillos.”

 

We know that teshuvah is not limited to a shul setting and can be achieved even without shofar, tallis, and machzor. And yet, in the colorful whirlwind that characterizes many Jewish homes during the Yom Tov season, it can be very hard to capture the spirit of the day without those atmospheric props.

Without a structured framework of tefillah b’tzibbur and its attendant aids to concentration and growth, how can women attain the appropriate mindset of eimas hadin and personal introspection?

The Real Purpose
To properly understand how a woman can maximize the spiritual power of the season, it’s crucial to understand the essence of the day, in order to have a clear picture of what constitutes success. (Hint: It isn’t about the longest Shemoneh Esreh.)

What is Rosh Hashanah actually about? There are several ways to describe the essential avodas hayom.

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, world-renowned Jewish women’s educator, sums up the core focus of the day as the joy of crowning Hashem King over ourselves. “It’s the simchah of saying, ‘I want to serve Hashem!’ ” Once that point is clear, the nitty-gritty of daily life suddenly clicks into its appropriate place in the global picture. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 556)

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