May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

More Than Motivation

In my adult life, weather has become big news, and I, like many people my age, though acknowledging the peculiarity of this fact, am still hooked on weather. I listen to the radio, watch the news and frequently check the weather on my iPhone. It may be snowing outside, which I can observe firsthand by simply glancing out my window, and yet I still feel compelled to regularly check my phone weather app for the hourly percentage chance of precipitation, accompanied by a picture of white snowflakes.

It was exciting to observe the forecast for the first Shabbos of 2018. The weather people predicted record-breaking low temperatures for our area, with wind chill factors of below zero! The dangers of exposure to weather conditions this cold were highlighted on every news outlet. The message was clear: stay inside! If it had been any other day, other than Shabbos, I believe we all would have adhered to the warnings and stayed indoors as much as possible; we certainly would not have gone out walking anywhere. However, it was in fact Shabbos, and we Jews have been gathering together on Shabbos to pray to God and hear the weekly Torah reading in a public forum since ancient times. This Shabbos, with the “real feel” temperature in the negative numbers, would be no different.

We are blessed to live in a vibrant Jewish community with life events such as aufrufs, shalom zachors, bar mitzvahs, etc., taking place every Shabbos, and this Shabbos was no exception. This week too, the community celebrated upcoming marriages, the birth of new babies and the coming of age of young men. Friends and family members bundled up in their warmest clothes, putting on sweaters, down coats, scarves, hats, ear muffs, and the like, and braved the cold so that they could participate joyfully in the simcha to which they were invited. People who did not have a particular simcha walked to shul nonetheless, to daven, listen to the leining and hear divrei Torah from the rabbi. The cold, though indeed fierce and bitter, was a nuisance, a conversation piece, but it was not a deterrent to normal Shabbos activities.

There are other times during the year when I am similarly awed by the dedication of the members of our Jewish community. I live two blocks from a shul, and every morning during the last week of the month of Elul and the first week of Tishrei the streets are packed with parked cars and people walking to the shul at 5:30 a.m. or earlier in order to recite Selichot. For some, it is not difficult to be up at that hour of the morning, but for others, whose natural tendency is to stay up late and sleep late, waking up in the “wee hours” is challenging and even painful, but yet the shuls are full both with those Jews who are early risers and with those who never see the sun come up except during that week.

I am equally impressed with the individual who is not very handy around the house and for whom changing the light bulbs represents the extent of his handiwork, but who during the month of Tishrei is seen outside with wood, nails and tools putting up his sukkah. If you listen carefully, you can hear the “clanging” of metal poles and instruments falling against the stone floor right up through Erev Sukkot. Nobody sees his lack of natural construction ability as an obstacle to getting his sukkah up in time for the holiday.

An Orthodox Jew who works in a typical firm is offered non-kosher food on a regular basis, whether at meetings, dinners out with colleagues, or in the office, where cookies, cakes and chocolates are often left in the staff kitchen or lounge for public consumption. But it does not matter how hungry he or she may be; the person will not eat food that is not kosher. On a fast day, even those who feel that they have very little control over their desire to eat good food manage not to eat or drink anything for the whole day—as long as 25 hours!

I have often wondered how we as Orthodox Jews are able to resist letting so many things get in the way of our observance. Though it’s certainly not always easy, we ultimately do not allow lack of warmth, lack of sleep or hunger to deter us from pursuing our religious and spiritual goals. And yet, in other areas of our lives, many of us have significant internal conflict over temptations that we find impossible to resist. We struggle with our diets, with getting up in the morning, with doing things we are not naturally good at. A number of my non-kosher-keeping coworkers have asked me over the years why I ever struggled with my weight or diet; they had gone to many dinners with me when I would not eat anything because there wasn’t anything kosher available. But struggle I did! How many of you have gone to work on a fast day and found that your friends there cannot believe that you won’t have even a glass of water? And yet that late-night snack is often unavoidable!

If only we could tap into the part of our brain that stops us from eating that amazing-looking piece of Swiss chocolate because it does not have a proper hechsher and use it to stop ourselves from overeating or eating foods that are too high in sugar. If only we could tap into the commitment to rise early for Selichot and use it to exercise more, or into the ability to build the sukkah despite the lack of natural talent and use it to succeed at other accomplishments that may not come easily.

Why are our religious motivators so often easier to follow while our personal motivators are often challenged and fail us? Something to ponder…

By Beth Taubes, RN

 Beth Taubes RN, OCN, CBCN, CHC,CYT, is the owner of Wellness Motivations LLC. She motivates clients of all backgrounds, ages and health conditions to engage in improved self-care through nutritional counseling, personal fitness training, yoga practice and stress-reduction techniques. Join the reset your health and fitness 2018! Beth can be reached at [email protected] or wellnessmotivationsbt.com.

 

 

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