Looking Back at Yom Tov

Q: Getting back on schedule after the Yamim Tovim has its pluses and minuses. The performance of ordinary daily activities provides a sense of order and structure, which I greatly appreciate. On the other hand, Tishrei has its own life, its own intensity, and this is something I miss when I think of all I was fortunate enough to have experienced. The meaningful moments shared with family members during the Yamim Nora’im are memories I cherish. The quality of life is definitely elevated by the days of Tishrei.

However, looking back, there are scenes I wish I could change. If only I could turn back the hands of time and do certain things differently! In particular, I would erase the times my children saw me lose my temper when I got overly caught up with little details. I know that I was often right to be annoyed — but taking it to the level I did wasn’t helpful to anyone. My continually being disappointed in family members who did not do their share; my emotional reactions to certain relatives who came to visit; pushing my sons to get up for minyan … there are times I felt like a drill sergeant.

Looking ahead to next year, I wonder how I could do things differently so I wouldn’t have these feelings of regret.

A: One’s vision of human imperfection can create a sense of humility or feelings of sadness. It is up to the individual to decide how to respond to this reality.

We say in Maariv, “V’haseir satan mil’faneinu ume’achareinu — May You remove the adversary from before us and from behind us.” The adversary before us, we are able to understand, is the yetzer hara, in its many forms. But what is the adversary behind us? It’s that little voice that whispers, “I would have/ should have/ could have.” That voice usually leads to despair and self-pity — not the ways of self-betterment.

To plan for the future in an attempt to avoid the unnecessary traps of poor planning, and prepare for a better understanding of particular interpersonal needs between family members, is commendable. But frequently, what we worry about never comes to pass; and what we never imagine occurring, often does. Working on anger management issues in relation to your patience level with family members is an excellent step in tikkun hamiddos. Imagining typical stressful family scenarios, and mentally practicing alternative ways to respond, can be an excellent strategy to prevent future angry outbursts. Creative ways to wake your sons for minyan can be discussed with them now; I’m sure there are other times in the year when this issue arises. Ways to successfully delegate responsibilities to family members can be problem-solved together.

But it’s up to you to decide where your focus should be. You can concentrate on the positive moments you experienced throughout Yom Tov. Give yourself credit for all the times you could have become aggravated — but did not. Focus on all the times you could have spoken lashon hara at the Yom Tov table, but quickly attempted to change the subject instead. You can focus on the simchah that your family experienced due to your efforts and enthusiasm. You can zero in on the positive gains from your introspective thoughts during the Yamim Nora’im. These positive self-affirmations will elevate your Yom Tov retrospective emotionally and spiritually, and have a positive effect on the day-to-day moments ahead.