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Tammuz Goal: No Goal

Maybe my lists — both physical and mental — were actually making me more anxious?


Sivan in Review

With all of the recent difficult events, it was hard to work on ayin tovah. It would almost seem callous to try and put a “positive spin” on things.

But ayin tovah isn’t about ignoring challenges; rather, it refocuses me on thoughts that foster gratitude for the brachos. I got a great reminder of this when my friends and I made a Shavuos morning kiddush for ladies and kids. At one point, one of the women remarked so profoundly: “Can we all just stop for a moment and appreciate the fact that at last year’s kiddush, we were all wearing masks?”

Tammuz Goal: No Goal

In the very first letter of the Torah, we learn to set goals. “Bereishis” — Rashi tells us that the “beis,” meaning “for,” refers to the fact that the world was created for Bnei Yisrael who are called “Reishis” (first). Hashem’s world was made with a purpose: for Bnei Yisrael to reveal His Glory.

We’re taught from a young age that without clear and attainable goals, we’ll get nowhere fast. This lesson is so deeply ingrained in us that we may never stop and ask: Are all goals good?

This hit me in a parenting class by Rebbetzin Sima Spetner, when she discussed the idea of being “less goal-oriented.” To me this was heresy. My whole day was made up of to-do lists and appointments. Sure, I tried to narrow it down so no one day would be overwhelming, but where would I be without my lists? Anxious and unaccomplished.

Still, I tried to soak in what she was saying, and suddenly I found it liberating. Do you mean that I’m allowed to let go of some goals and enjoy an aimless moment? What a thought! Maybe my lists — both physical and mental — were actually making me more anxious?

In his book Faith over Fear, Rav Yechiel Yitzchok Perr says it so well:

…your attention is in pockets, attending to a thousand different things. You have to remember today’s to-do list, tomorrows, and the next day’s. You have to write them all down — and make sure not to lose your list!… This is the illness of pizur hanefesh (fragmentation of the soul). It’s sad if you cannot stop and think and experience….

A goal is good when it keeps me present and focused on what I need to be doing, in a state of menuchas hanefesh. When it takes me all over the place and I’m unable to deal with the situation at hand — that’s pizur hanefesh. If I feel like I’m not getting where I want to go, or not doing what I want to be doing, I’ve got to ask myself: Is this goal really necessary?

It comes up all day long; most of the time I’m not even aware, because it’s so much a part of my subconscious. Making it to the bus on time, having everyone look just right, and making every Shabbos dish on my menu — I take it for granted that these are all essential. But are they?

I heard an excellent mashal from Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker, based on the teachings of the Chazon Ish. A man was traveling to another town for an important appointment, and he reached a crossroads. Right or left? If he chooses correctly, he’ll be on time. But if he’s wrong, he’ll move further and further away from his goal with every step. How distressing!

Take another man, also traveling — but he’s a tourist. Right or left? Either way he’ll get to see the sights. He’s just there for the journey. And so are we.

Imagine I’m with my son playing outside when I decide it’s time to make supper. Of course I want him to follow me inside — now. I encourage, bribe, threaten, and eventually drag him in. It ends up taking more than just a few minutes and making supper becomes throwing hot dogs in the microwave to get him to calm down, then falling onto the couch exhausted.

But what if I make one change: I remove my goal. I want to go inside, but I see that he wants more time. I patiently watch him ride backwards on his tricycle while giggling. Call my husband to tell him supper will be late. After enjoying 20 more minutes of playtime, I tell my son we’re going in and getting an ice pop to cool off before dinner. While he eats his treat, I put food in the oven.

Does this sound unrealistic? It’s not — because I know from experience that when I’m calm, everyone around me can feel it, and they follow suit. Even if they don’t, I’m much better equipped to handle it because my only goal is to keep calm. Nothing more. This allows me to go with the flow, to enjoy a journey instead of lamenting a destination never reached.

As we approach the summer, it can be a great time to put this lesson into practice. Vacation from the regular routine allows for more leeway and less external pressure. I can utilize this atmosphere not to be lazy, but rather to slow down and deal with situations calmly.

We may think we set the goals, and we certainly try to, but we’re really walking the path Hashem has laid out for us. This month, I want to work on feeling the calm of a day sans trying to get somewhere or make something happen.


Go with the flow

My goal is to be calm

“V’halachta b’Drachav — Walk in the way of Hashem”

This month I will:

Take note of which goals are creating pressure in my life

Make sure my day is not too packed, so there’s less of a time constraint.

Ask myself what will happen if I remove a certain goal; will it be okay?

If a goal isn’t working, I’ll shift to enjoying the moment for what it is

Set Up for Success

Not all goals are good. But not all goals are bad either, and some deadlines need to be met.

I can’t just erase my entire to-do list or nothing would ever get done. So how do I (try to) make sure that what needs to happen — does?

Prioritize. Narrow down my goals so I have energy for the most important ones.

Plan ahead. Last-minute ideas for a delicious dinner can often result in messes and power struggles. Stick to what was already planned and save the fancy meal for tomorrow.

Avoid making goals dependent on others. It’s hard enough to do what you need to do; once others are in the picture, it becomes exponentially harder. Do chores at times that don’t require kids’ cooperation, don’t invite a friend to accompany you on errands when you’re short on time, and realize it’s better that you get the ingredient you need right now than to ask your husband.

Make it enjoyable. When goals do involve others, get them excited — or so distracted that they don’t mind. Treats for the kids can make a shopping disaster into a fun outing, and having a dance party while cleaning up will get everyone into a better mood.


Mindel Kassorla has been advising students — both in Eretz Yisrael and beyond their seminary year — for over a decade. She lives with her husband and children in Jerusalem.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 746)


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