Monday, October 20, 2008

15-minute increments

[Haveil Havalim is out here!]

Yom Tov is winding down; it’s impossible to believe that Rosh HaShanah was a full three weeks ago.

(Note: The Tzidkas haTzaddik, #171, has a fascinating parallel between the Three Weeks of Bein haMetzarim and the Three Weeks from Rosh HaShanah through Shemini Atzeret, including a link between Tisha b’Av and Shemini Atzeret. Very worth reading. Probably a derashah some year.)

When my Rebbetzin and I were in our first year in the rabbinate, and Yamim Noraim/Succot preparation was crazy beyond anything I had ever imagined, I told my wife, “Don’t worry; it gets easier after Yom Tov.”

I was new at this; what did I know?

Now, I know. I can see it coming; my to-do list for Thursday is a mile long. I really have improved my scheduling over the past eleven years, but there’s no getting around the fact that after Yom Tov, all those things that were delayed “until after Yom Tov” come barreling around the corner. Committees and boards, individuals and families, anything and everything must now be faced, so the days from October 23 through mid-December will be filled with appointments and meetings and work.

Much needs to be done – classes, derashos, programming, counseling, scheduling, administrative stuff, website management, shul library, hospitals, prisons, community work, psak, shivah, family time, community politics and more – and all of it on the same day. So you run from one thing to the next to the next, and there’s barely time to breathe, let alone eat, in between. I live on Boost Plus. had an article a couple of weeks ago on the relaxation needs of the President of the United States. The article began with the line, “In long days scheduled in 15-minute increments, presidents are asked to make decisions affecting millions -- sometimes life-or-death decisions.” Certainly, the life-or-death decisions are part of the problem, but the 15-minute increments are a big part of it as well.

The article is correct: The less downtime you have, the more apt you are – I am – to make mistakes, and to fail to think creatively. That’s the way the human brain operates. (The article cites “creativity researchers.” That sounds like a fun career; maybe after I retire I’ll go ino “creativity research.”)

So a rabbi must schedule creativity time, relaxation-time, sitting-and-thinking time. (I worked in some time the other day to watch clips of John McCain and Barack Obama at the Al Smith Dinner, and Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live; those were great. I need more of that.)

Scheduling time like that sounds dumb, but that’s reality; the time must be scheduled or it won’t happen, it’ll be eaten up by other things. It's not only rabbis - many people, I think, need to schedule it. Nature abhors vacuums in both space and time.

Every year, when things get crazy right before Rosh haShanah, I turn to my wife and reprise my foolish optimism of 1997: “It gets easier after Yom Tov, right? I’m much better at scheduling now, I think I’ve finally got it down.”

And, knowing better than to answer, she just smiles.


  1. Don't forget the laundry, unless it's the rebbitzin's job.

  2. I do my own... which leaves her with just 5 people's laundry...

    (great post, btw)