Finding Spirituality in the Details
“What’s the best way to utilize my free time?”
That’s the question I asked one of my rabbis at the end of my seminary year. During those months in Jerusalem, I devoted myself wholeheartedly to the study of Jewish texts and the pursuit of spiritual growth.
Only now do I understand why my rabbi responded with a small smile as he gave me ideas to take back when I returned to the United States to start college. He knew what I, at 19, did not yet know: that adulthood came with preoccupations far beyond keeping up with schoolwork. To me, “free time” was something I always have and continually aim to fill with meaning.
During the year I spent studying in Israel, I had the opportunity to reassess my value system, consider how I spent my time, and shift my perspective in so many ways. I made great personal strides through my study of Jewish texts and focus on prayer and my connection with G-d. My “free time” was devoted to personal, spiritual growth; on the rare days when I was not in class, I could spend an entire morning praying at the Kotel or volunteering for a meaningful charity.
When I returned to the U.S. and began my studies at Stern College, I was determined to continue the process of spiritual growth. I carved out time to learn with friends and to quietly assess my spiritual health and prepare for upcoming Jewish holidays. I set aside time to pray.
It’s been a decade since then. The life I carved out for myself upon my return, so laser-focused on my own spiritual and religious growth, has now shifted towards nurturing the physical and spiritual growth of my family. My days are full of logistics — filling lunch boxes, coordinating carpool, bath and bedtime schedules. These moments, at first glance, can seem mundane; they certainly are not moments of intense self-reflection or textual study. When I pray, I often struggle to keep my mind from wandering to the long to-do list constantly rotating in my mind. On the best of weeks I’m able to consistently integrate exercise into my routine. During whatever quiet time I can manage to sneak in, I have to balance keeping a (mostly) clean and organized home and doing the spiritual work I feel is required to keep my life focused.
In the midst of it all, I have this fear of waking up one morning in ten years and wondering to myself whether I missed the point of it all. Did I somehow get lost in the hustle and bustle? Did I miss out on the bigger picture of what Hashem wants of me because my days are such a whirlwind?I am afraid of living an externally “Orthodox” life, checking off all the boxes, but one in which G-d has ceased to truly be the center of my world.
It’s during these moments of concern and personal reflection that I remember the need to continuously cultivate a more expansive understanding of what it means to live a life of service to G-d. Many of the responsibilities I face on a daily basis do not seem, on the surface, spiritual, holy, or inspiring; they are mundane. Still, despite their ordinariness, each activity can provide a significant opportunity for refinement of character and recognition of G-d in the details.
I still strongly value the importance of meaningful prayer and setting aside time for personal reflection. But now, I try to remind myself that spiritual growth need not be limited to formalized learning and introspection. I have had to learn that tending to my responsibilities in life is also a part of my spiritual work in this world and that spiritual growth can become a byproduct of conscious living.
I seek to know G-d in all of the many daily activities that keep my mind and hands preoccupied. I try to engage in my family’s daily routine with kavanah, intention. I seek to find G-d within the hustle bustle, not despite it.
Hani Lowenstein (nee Lieberman) is a devoted wife and mother of four energetic boys. She received a BA from the Stern College for Women Honors program and an MA from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University in Modern Jewish History. Hani is passionate about the importance of a Jewish woman’s religious development throughout the many chapters and stages of her life. She currently works part-time at a Jewish organization and has taught Torah in various settings. She cherishes writing as a creative outlet. The opinions expressed in this article are Hani’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the position of the organization where she works.