Tools for Elul: Craig Nayhouse

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Lent. Yes. Lent. Those 40 days of eternal hope in the spring when my Catholic friends give up chewing tobacco, swearing, desserts, social media or various other vices during their time of reflection and repentance. As Jews, our 40 days of teshuvah are now when a cool fall breeze sends crisp brown leaves swirling above checkered cobblestone streets.

How does one bring G-d into their day to day life and what can we give up and improve on this coming year 5780? This past October 27th, I gave up reading the paper, watching the news and now (save for a Steelers or Pitt football game) the TV stays turned off. I'm all for kol yisrael though as a happy introvert, I'll leave Facebook and social media to y'all. Do I need to know what's going on in the world or even my city to make a positive, personal impact with others? I say no.

I'm surrounded by graciousness from my next-door neighbors. On BOTH sides. Salt of the earth people who enhance the quality of my day to day life. What can I do for them beyond the visual landscape they endure - partially trimmed hedges and a cluttered front porch?

I can work on trying to be on time or at least get to where my dentist office doesn't have to call and remind me the day before about my 10:45 a.m. cleaning while we both know the appointment is at 11:00 a.m. Now, when I frantically rush in sweating at 10:55 a.m. I'm actually 5 minutes early not 10 minutes late. Though, I worry should I start showing up on time, how might this confuse my son who has been raised on the mantra 'Do as I SAY not as I do.'

I can donate more money though want to make sure it gets to people or causes who
really need it. Like Sheila, my favorite waitress at Ritter's. Painfully wobbling down the aisle with my plate of spaghetti. A pulled hip muscle from dancing at her high school's 50th reunion.

A circus performer would be envious watching Sheila balance 3 plates as her body weaves awkwardly up and down. Her incredulous response when I asked her why she came to work that night in obvious discomfort 'Why do think hon - I need the money.'

And how about you dear reader? Relaxing at your Rosh Hashanah dinner. That split second before your fork swoops down to shovel in a second heaping of apple pie. Will you pause and take in the richness of friends and families. Thank G-d for being blessed with good health. Break into a warm smile remembering those who came before you.

Centuries old Jewish customs and traditions brought over from the old country and dutifully observed and passed down to the next generation.

As the pie crumbs you brush off your shirt scatter onto the weathered oak floor below, will you say to yourself: 'Enough is enough. I need to quit stuffing myself with dessert. If not now, when?'

I know I will.

-Craig Nayhouse, Part-Time Member and friend of Rodef Shalom

Rodef Shalom