By: Deborah Abecassis Warshawsky
The month of holidays is behind us. There is much about them that I enjoy. I love to cook and entertain. I love to go to synagogue with my children, to decorate the sukkah, to spend time with friends, to read books and nap and play games, and to have flexible bedtimes, many unscheduled hours and no electronic devices. But order, routine, and structure are all hard to find in a month of holidays and half weeks. I suppose you could argue that “plan menus, shop, cook, eat, go to shul, eat, go to shul, carpool, homework, carpool, homework, repeat” (for four weeks) is its own kind of schedule, but it is not one that I thrive on. It’s not balanced.
Do you ever have those “hurry up and wait” kind of days? You rush to an appointment and wait. You rush to carpool and wait. You rush to your child’s activity and wait. At the end of the day, you’re exhausted and have not actually accomplished anything except emptying the gas tank (and your own sources of energy). By the end of this month of chagim, I am exhausted from that same sense of rushing and doing nothing. I cram a week’s worth of chores into three days, racing from shopping to cooking to carpool to music lessons to more cooking and then I sit for two days – eating, reading, playing with my children (and eating again), trying hard not to think about all the tasks waiting for me after the holiday.
My desk is a mess with papers and bills I have not had a chance to deal with. The house is cluttered with toys, books, puzzles, and discarded sweaters and tights from so many days of children in the house and not in school. The fridge, unbelievably, is empty.
As God began to create the heaven and the earth, the Torah tells us that the earth was “tohu va-vohu.” Rashi understood these words to mean bewilderment and void – that a person would be baffled by the emptiness and desolation. (Sort of like how I feel about my fridge). Other commentators interpreted the words as “formless and empty” or “chaos and desolation.” The phrase appears again in the book of Jeremiah confirming that the initial state of the earth was chaos.
As our children learned this week in school, from this chaos God created order. Each day, he created something new, filling the earth with light and plants and animals and ultimately, man and woman. Step by step, day by day, God sorted through the chaos and organized life on earth. And when He was done on the seventh day, He “blessed the seventh day and declared it holy because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.”
I know that, without a doubt, as the children go back to school and I fill the fridge with food and I sort through the layers of paper on my desk, I too will bring order to the chaos I feel “post-chagim” and from this order and organization, I will find rest for my cluttered brain. It’s not a new concept. Organization, routine, structure and schedules ease anxiety, increase productivity, and improve sleep – for adults and children. I know it about myself, and I know it about my children. I never really thought about in light of the story of creation before. But the Torah tells us that “God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” If God ordained order into our physical world, then it makes sense, that we, created in His image, thrive among structure and organization.
As we have now finished the book of Deuteronomy and begun the cycle of Torah reading again with Bereishit, I look forward now to creating order in my physical space and in my family’s life, to finding our routine and to following a schedule. And I look forward to Shabbat, when rest, after a structured and organized week, is a blessing.
Discussion Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- Why did God take six days to create the world?
- Give an example in your life of making order from chaos?
- How do you feel when you can’t find something you need or want?
- How does order bring us rest?