Getting My Priorities Straight

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Last night and today I joined Jews around the world in celebrating the holiday of Purim.  Among other customs, on this special day Jews gather to hear the Biblical book of Esther publicly chanted in Hebrew in a particular sing-songy tone.  To properly fulfill the rabbinic commandment of listening to the recitation of Esther on Purim, one should hear each and every word without interruption

As I sat down in synagogue last night, trying to get myself in the mindset of the day, I thought about the rarity of what was about to occur.  For the next 45 minutes or so, there would be no conversations, no phone calls, no checking e-mail or the latest news on my BlackBerry.  It would be time devoted to nothing else aside from listening to the beautiful and rhythmic melody of an ancient text and reflecting on the miraculous salvation of my people thousands of years ago. 

In addition to hearing the public recitation of Esther, the other three obligations of Purim are to give charity to the needy, to send gifts of food to one’s friends, and to enjoy a festive holiday meal with others.  One unifying factor in all four of these actions is the notion of fostering connections with other people.     

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities.  After the very enlightening conversations I had last week with my co-workers about productivity and time management, I was struck by how they all struggled with balancing work commitments with family, hobbies, faith, and other things about which they are passionate.  Additionally, my husband and I put in an offer to purchase a home, which has sparked a whole series of discussions about financial priorities.  In an effort to counteract the craziness that comes with working full-time, being in school, and buying a house, we have been trying to have weekly date nights to ensure that we take the time to have a real conversation and enjoy each other’s company every so often.

For me, Purim this year was a bit of a jolt back to reality.  Between escalating responsibilities at work, a very hectic semester of school, the sudden stress of home inspections and mortgage approvals, and a host of other distractions, I’ve largely been operating on hyperdrive for several weeks now.  But for one day, I was forced to push other thoughts out of my head and just reflect on what’s really important to me.  My marriage.  My family.  My dear friends.  Being part of a supportive religious community.  Being happy.  (A recent article on happiness in the New York Times seems to imply that the aforementioned items are heavily intertwined.)

Purim is a notoriously festive day on which people traditionally dress in costume and celebrate with one another.  This year the three Orthodox synagogues in Memphis – Baron Hirsch Congregation, Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth, and Young Israel of Memphis – put their differences aside for one day and held a joint Purim event, which in my eyes is reason for celebration indeed.  Some great photos of the event and the wonderfully creative costumes people came up with this year can be found here.  Below is a video I took at the event, which shows individuals of all ages joining together to enjoy some Hebrew music and Israeli dancing in honor of the occasion.  (You will notice that the men and women are separated by a partition for dancing, as is traditionally the case.)

So now that Purim 2011 has come and gone, here are some big ideas on time management that I came away with:

  • Making time for the things that are really important. 
  • Savoring the moments of peace and quiet, rather than stressing about all of the other things you could be doing during that time.
  • Connecting with other people and engaging with my community.
  • Being happy.  (Remember this guy?)
  • Getting my priorities straight. 

8 Responses to Getting My Priorities Straight

  1. Salutation:

    My dear yet again you’ve placed a smile on my face.
    For that I thank you.
    I’m so amazed at how sharp you really are.
    I also take your words to heart.
    I don’t know how ppl do it daily?
    You my goodness,a husband,date night,faith,school and work?
    You are amazing!
    I’m please to hear someone out there can summize reality.
    You are articulate(eventually that will to a fault).
    Unfortunately you will become frustrated by others who don’t understand what you have said!
    But you’ll get through it.
    Congrats on the home idea.
    I should have known you are/were what we call a “JAP”.
    I too know the pressures put upon oneself to be perfect.
    “Jewish Guilt” as others jest about is very real.
    I’m from a family of New York Jews myself.
    However the “Bergdorf” tweets I can now ignore.
    I have what I refer to as my nanny 7 days per week.
    I tell her to go home on Friday and enjoy the weekend with her friends and family.
    (She is paid for those weekends.)
    I do that selfishly.
    I can take a 6 hour bath and leave the “Droid” away from me.
    I can sleep and eat when I want to.
    However I turn on the radio *&* I’m Happy to be alone.
    My family is 3000 miles away.
    I don’t enjoin in festive occasions.
    I just relax *&* Spend my nights shopping on ebay!
    That too is stressful!
    Nonetheless I again am delighted to hear your level headed guidence.
    I actually rely on it.
    Ivy League I speculate?

    Thanks For making my a.m.(I awakened post midnight).
    I also love the way you write.
    Myself I don’t bother with the html if I’m not required to use it.
    I write from the heart.
    I punctuate according to my own fashion. They call it:
    “A run on of sentences.”It worked for “Joyce” along with “Poe”!

    Thank You again!

    • SW, I appreciate your loyal readership and your comments. It’s nice to know that people are enjoying my blog. I do, however, feel I need to comment on your use of the term JAP. The stereotype of the Jewish American princess is not one I really want to perpetuate here. I don’t mean for my blog to take on a “woe is me” tone or anything like that, as I recognize that it is a blessing to be able to pursue my education at night rather than having to go to a second job in order to put food on my family’s table. But I don’t think I lead a particularly pampered lifestyle either. My two-bedroom apartment and 14-year old car might suggest otherwise.
      And unfortunately, the stereotype of bounty in the Jewish community allows us to more easily overlook the financial struggles of many in our midst. In my community of Memphis, TN one of the local Orthodox synagogues just started a kosher food pantry. It’s a shame that there is such a need, but it most certainly does exist. I would much prefer to raise awareness about and support for that.

  2. Addendum:

    I’ve just realized tomorrow is my birth date!
    You see I’ve set the calendar & my collection
    of timepieces away to de-stress!
    However on the 21st of March,
    My own traddition of laquering my toes with “CoCo”Pink.
    It’s a ritual.
    So I’m delighted & now behind in time.
    RE: Performing my own self imposed stressful rules!

    Warmest Regards,


  3. changingnewsroom says:

    Great post, Amara. You and I are on the same wavelength this semester. 🙂

  4. Corfu Sidari says:

    Definitely, what a splendid website and illuminating posts, I definitely will bookmark your site.Best Regards!

  5. Caryn says:

    Great post! Purim is a great time to celebrate, be festive, enjoy time with friends and also think about what’s most important. I love the holiday! Enjoying your time management tips.

  6. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  7. furnisxc says:

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