The spillover effect of this commitment has been nothing short of incredible
As busy mothers, juggling family, work, and communal obligations, many of us miss our school days when we had the time and peace of mind to daven long Shemoneh Esrehs and sit in inspirational classes.
I’m not a terrible person, really! I’m just a very pragmatic one who finds more satisfaction in providing my kids with enriching activities, and setting a nice Shabbos table than cracking open a sefer.
I’m a super-organized perfectionist — the type who gets stressed out when my freezer is messy. I check off to-do items all day long, and listening to the Chazak hotline or calling in to Tehillim conferences just aren’t my thing. That’s okay, right?
Before last Rosh Hashanah, my mother mentioned that she wanted to participate in the OU’s Nach Yomi women’s program. My mother’s a recent retiree who’s like a kid in a candy store as she fills her days with shiurim and outings with friends, so what works for her may not be exactly what works for me. But she sent me the email, thinking I might find it interesting, too.
The program consists of a daily shiur on a perek of Navi, with a few different choices of speakers. Participants complete Nach in about two years.
I thought about my five kids, my bundle-of-energy two-year-old, my full-time job, the dishes in my sink — and didn’t give it another thought.
But then a friend mentioned it, too. True, she has a bit more breathing space in her life, but she’s in this stage too and gets it, and still, she was planning to try. She also pointed out that it wasn’t all or nothing. I can just listen to the shiur without following along inside. That felt much more manageable.
I agreed to give it a try, reminding myself that I could always drop the program if it got too tough.
How it went down
I choose a shiur that takes only 10–12 minutes a day. It sounds like very little, but squeezing those few minutes into a day that’s already jam-packed is a real challenge. Often, I turn the shiur on as I zip around throwing supper in the oven or a load in the machine in the few minutes after work, before my kids come home.
I also get into the habit of turning it on in the car while waiting on the car-pool line.
It’s really tough for me, but slowly, it becomes a habit. One day, I decide to try a new speaker, Rabbi Shalom Rosner. His shiur is longer, but I’m blown away! He quotes Rishonim, chassidic stories, and Jewish history with equal ease, and I’m hooked. Before I know it, my daily commitment has gone from 10 minutes to the 25 minutes his shiur takes.
Then lockdown comes, and I wonder how this is supposed to work; between all the kids’ calls and the nonstop food prep, housework, and my job, our days are barely functional as it is.
Surprisingly, with all the late nights, with all I need to plan, schedule, entertain, and referee, I ace my Nach commitment! During our endless hours in the backyard, or while working on the mounds of laundry at night, somehow, every day, I meet my goal.
I power through Yehoshua, I sail through Shoftim, two Shmuels, and struggle through two Melachims.
It’s after the lockdown, during the summer of strange, tentative re-openings, that I start to slip up. There’s never enough time Friday, and Motzaei Shabbos is so late that I tend to find myself on Sunday needing to listen to Friday, Shabbos, and Sunday, and quickly get backlogged. And once the doors to the outside world are opened, our time is no longer our own, but subject to so many demands and obligations.
I’m 45 perakim behind — which sounds outrageous, but isn’t really, when you compare it to the many months I’ve already logged. At first, when I’d fall behind, it would be really tough to get back into it. If I’m not on the right day, I’m failing! Type-A five-alarm situation!
With time and lots of self-talk, I persuade myself that lagging isn’t failing, and that simply staying in the game is an accomplishment worth celebrating.
I also become less neurotic about missing anything. So I didn’t get the connection between point A and Point B. I’ll survive. Once I come to terms with the fact that my retention won’t be flawless, I relax and enjoy the ride much more.
The spillover effect of this commitment has been nothing short of incredible.
At the most basic level, I enriched and expanded my Jewish knowledge base. I constantly learned interesting and inspiring thoughts to share at the Shabbos table, and even my kids frequently listen along with me when the shiurim are on (especially when the perakim deal with battles). My husband encouraged them to make me little siyumim as I finished each sefer.
Aside from how much we all learned, the commitment fired up my kids, as well. We’d be driving on a family outing, and they knew that between the music and story CDs, we’d make time to fit in Mommy’s shiur.
My most prized takeaway, however, is my new perspective. If you’d have asked me if I could find 25 minutes a day for a shiur, and if I’d like to, I’d have looked at you as if you’d grown a second head. Now, I’ve learned what I can do, and what I can enjoy. Things I’d considered impossible are now within my reach. There’s a whole world of growth open to me, far beyond anything I ever aspired to.
Dare role model
My mother sets an amazing example of continuing to learn at every stage. Closer to my age, the friend who introduced me to the program is someone who’s so present and real and understands where I’m at. Her positive, can-do attitude encourages me to stretch myself.
I’d never dare
There are some things my husband thinks I should try, like mushrooms or skiing, and I’m pretty sure I never will. I love structure and smooth-running routine and hate change. But I do want to leave certain things in the realm of possibility, and try them one day in the future.
For 15 years, ongoing Jewish learning was not on my priority list, and I never thought I was missing anything. Now it’s something I absolutely want to incorporate. Not that I’d suddenly prioritize learning over making a photobook of our family trip, but it’s a ball I intend to keep juggling.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 711)
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