Violets are blue?
Shavuos is three days long,
Oh how will I get through?
The men pray and learn,
They connect to Hashem
I cook clean and wash
How I wish I was them!
Spring is in the air, the world around us blossoming and blooming. The dark cold days of winter are behind us. The sun and its warmth make us smile and feel relaxed.
During this season, we’ve all been counting down the Omer to this special Yom Tov. The day that Hashem crowned us as His chosen nation and gave us the Torah. A holy, happy, uplifting holiday. Celebrated with flowers, symbolic food, extra Torah learning, and special Tefilos.
It’s challenging for those of us recovering from a mood disorder to only focus on the positive vibes and energy that Shavous brings. Often the stress of preparation can overshadow all the beauty. Especially with the extra day that this year’s calendar brings.
Here at Yad Rachel we understand. We can relate to the anxiety and tension that comes along with preparing for a three day Yom Tov. We can empathize with the challenges of serving constantly, eating nonstop with very little sleep and very little help.
We recognize the shame and guilt that comes with thinking we aren’t doing enough spiritually to celebrate.
So we put together some tips and tools to help you gear up for the task.
- Take a few minutes to come up with a menu. Writing it down can help you break it down to manageable pieces instead of it being one looming impossible feat.
- Try to get yourself invited out for at least one meal.
- Be prepared to keep the kids occupied. Some of us, whose husbands learn at night, don’t start the meal till late in the afternoon. Warm something up so they can have a hot meal at 11:3O/12 to avoid crankiness (a potato kugel, some soup). Buy new toys- the Dollar Tree has amazing options for literally, a dollar. From books to jump ropes, puzzles etc., dollar stores can be a goldmine for random yet exciting chotchkes. They might not last but will keep them busy.
- Gourmet isn’t all that glamorous. Unless cooking is something that relaxes you, try to keep things super simple. Put those Yad Rachel blinders on and stop staring at the food section of all the weekly magazines, and all the pictures on social media of “perfect” meals. Your goal this Yom Tov is to serve six meals without collapsing. Not to be an Instagram superstar.
A) Remember, doubles aren’t leftovers! Whatever mains you make, double the amounts. Mains and some sides can be served twice, three times.
B) Take some short cuts for your milichige meal or kiddush. Frozen blintzes (the horror!) and store bought cheese cake are fine. We are giving you the free pass to indulge in the handiwork of others to eliminate your workload. Once the blintzes are warmed up, no one knows the difference. Cheesecake is heavenly in any form, so why do you have to be the one to patchke? Store bought cheese rugalech and dairy muffins are an economical way to have milichige mezonos.
C) Keep the night meals light and eliminate a course. Serve either fish and just soup. Or gefilte fish and then a simple main.
D) Store bought desserts. Buy a tub of Pareve ice cream. One night prepare a scoop, drizzle it with chocolate syrup and a topping. The next night, place a piece of cake on a plate with a scoop of the same ice cream. Cut up fruit and frozen sorbet are a refreshing end to a heavy meal. If you eliminate the desserts and the dairy, the menu becomes more manageable.
E) Now is NOT the time to experiment with sophisticated recipes. Save that for another time. For this Yom Tov, use tried and true and EASY recipes. Remember, the meals that are most memorable are not because of what was served, but how enjoyable the company was.
- Use Paper goods for most meals. Baruch Hashem, there are affordable beautiful paper goods out there. Amazing savings, Close-Out Connections, and even Gourmet Glatt have a wide variety to choose from. It’s a worthwhile investment. If you want to use china for Yom Tov, at least use the paper for night meals to make for simple clean up.
- All Yom Tov and Shabbos laundry should be done to accommodate three days.
- Stock up with basics so you can have enough groceries to last three days. Don’t panic, you don’t have to stock up as if there’s a war coming! Just be organized with basic groceries (Milk, Nosh, fruits, paper goods diapers, candles Etc.)
- Make sure to have all ovens, hot plates, crockpots on Shabbos mode. Use Shabbos clocks/timers on appliances that can be switched on and off.
- Ignore the pressure to impress neighbors and friends with an elaborate set table and original floral arrangements. Beautify your Yom Tov table with a premade floral bouquet from a local grocery. If it’s your minhag to decorate the home with greens, keep it super simple and buy the greens and have your kids find places to hang it. Buy floral printed napkins from your grocery to give your table a pop of color and holiday spirit.
- Shabbos starts late. Attempt to lay down for a nap or go for a power walk around your neighborhood. Avoid standing around in your kitchen all day. It’s tiring!
- On the actual Yom Tov, try to arrange some time off for yourself each day. Make up with your family beforehand that you plan on either going to Shul, visit a neighbor, or take a nap. It’s important that you carve out some time for self-care so that you can be refreshed and ready to serve.
Combining the physical and the spiritual to glorify Hashem and His Miyvzos is what makes our Jewish Yomim Tovim so special and unique. But, we must keep the focus on trying to enter the holiday in good spirits. That is top priority. If we stress and obsess over details and extras that are completely unnecessary, we are defeating the purpose. We must be honest about our limitations, and embrace ourselves so that we can throw off the “shame” and “guilt” of not being perfect.
Remember those glorious years as a teenager, seminary girl? When we prepared for each Yom Tov by studying and learning and delving into the holiday secrets? Remember when we were able to go to Shul on Yom Tov and Daven to Hashem with meaningful complete Tefilos? We remember. And we know how it is, how we can’t actually do ANYTHING on Yom Tov other than cook, clean, sweep, set the table YET AGAIN, soothe a cranky kid Yet AGAIN. We are frantically going from one task to the next. Who has time to Daven Brochos? Forget about trying to read through Rus, or say a Perek of Tehilim. All that’s on the brain is “Do I defrost tomorrow’s main tonight, or in the morning”?
Thoughts start creeping in of shame and inadequacy. Don’t despair. Stop the guilt! Women don’t have a Chiyuv to learn Torah, because Torah is a WAY OF LIFE FOR US. We don’t realize, but every action, task, chore, errand, is connected to Torah and Hashem. When we are down, uninspired, sad, or tired, it’s normal to do things by rote. But remember!
Raising, caring, feeding our children. Cooking and setting the table for Yom Tov. Cleaning the house for Yom Tov. These are HOLY activities.
Instead of feeling frustrated. Take a second as you do something. To stop and think and say (to yourself or even out loud!) I am doing this Lishem Shamayim and Likovod Yom Tov. Help me Hashem, to be able to accept that when I take this action (set the table, feed my children) it is an opportunity to serve You.
Wishing you and your families a happy and healthy Shavuos!