While Rosh Hashana is still a few weeks away, for many of us the year really begins now as our children head back to school. With that come the hectic schedules, the carpools, and the feeling that we do not even have time to breathe.
I think the advice of Rabbi Kolonomus Kalman Shapiro, the last Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto and author of Bnei Machshava Tova, is instructive. Writing in relation to spirituality and the ability to be moved by events in our loves, he notes that one of the major obstacles in the way of spirituality is a rushed lifestyle. He was writing this in the 1930’s. Imagine what he would have said about the pace of our lives in the 21st century?
He is so convinced that our rapid-fire life style is the cause of deadened spirituality that he repeats the word – Harcheik (keep away from or distance yourself from) three times when referring to rushing through life – “מן המהירות הרחק הרחק הרחק”.
It is not only moments of potential spirituality that are lost due to our harried pace. We rush through life at such a fast pace that we cannot appreciate our family, friends and our everyday surroundings. Many do not even have time to have a few minutes of conversation with loved ones.
(Part of the challenge is that many are involved in numerous organizations, worthy ones of course, that any time not spent at work is spent at meetings. I suggest that we limit our participation in some of those outside activities and focus on our inner life and our home life. I know ouf communities needs us, but other priorities (our iner life and our family life) must be considered as well. Responsible organizations should not accept the volunteered time of people who overdo it. )
Rabbi Shapiro is convinced that we can train ourselves to overcome this handicap. He tells us: “We exhort you in the strongest terms: teach yourself to watch. In general, become person who looks for God. Perhaps in your looking you will uncover God’s subtle presence – you may see His holiness. When you seek him, you will surely find him. And where will you find him? In yourself and in everything surround you.”
This is something I am going to work on this year…starting now.