The Jewish Report Editorial

We should sweat the small stuff

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Having spent last Sukkot in Israel, I have an abiding image of a man with a long beard on a bicycle with a small sukkah attached to it. He was making his way down a busy one-way road with three or four lanes in Tel Aviv.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Oct 10, 2019

He looked so happy with his makeshift home-made sukkah almost around him, looking out for someone to help perform a mitzvah (good deed). As I saw him pull over, I held my breath and squeezed my eyes closed, hoping he would safely make it to the pavement. There was lots of hooting in peak-hour traffic on a Thursday afternoon, and he smiled as he approached a young, secular-looking man with the offer of the mitzvah of the lulav and etrog.

Once that was done, our mitzvah man then offered the young guy a seat on his bicycle and a sandwich so he could perform the mitzvah of sitting and eating in the sukkah.

I watched him pull a lever and the sukkah moved over the seat of the bicycle to make it work. Once the man was done, the sukkah was moved back so the cyclist could carry on to the next stranger.

It was a beautiful experience to watch, and it has found pride of place in the Sukkot memory box in my head. It slots in well alongside those wonderful childhood memories of spending hours creating things to decorate our sukkah at home.

One of the things that struck me about the cycling sukkah man was that he was clearly determined to create a sukkah that could help as many strangers as possible to perform mitzvot. So, he took what he had, and made a plan.

His sukkah wasn’t beautiful or a work of art, but it did the job. He sweated the small stuff for a big goal.

I wonder if he lay awake at night, worrying and wondering if and how it was going to work. I would have done that. I would have pondered, worried, and made notes in the early hours of the morning. 

How many of us do that? How many of us sweat the small stuff?

How many of us worry about things that sometimes don’t warrant worrying about? Sometimes we even worry about not being able to sleep and being tired the next day because of it. Does that fit you?

I worry on a weekly basis if we have the best possible stories. Have we thought of all the angles? Do we have a lead that’s worthy of being a lead? Have we missed anything that would be important to our readers?

Yup, every week I worry, and I know I’m not alone in this.

The point is, I’m grateful to be able to sweat the small stuff. We all have people we care about who aren’t sweating the small stuff. The small stuff is meaningless to them. They have a big issue that is consuming their life at the moment, be it illness, a death, losing their livelihood, and so on.

There are a number of life challenges that make the small stuff seem like the sea lapping on the beach while they are dealing with a tsunami.

We do a lot of complaining about the small stuff. We bitch and moan a lot. I know I do.

Now, after having just experienced Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and having spent time contemplating, I’m so grateful for those small things that irk me so much.

This time of year, we are all looking around us and inside of ourselves to see what really matters, and what we want to be different.

Many people are facing big issues. Some are even wondering if emigrating is a good idea, and whether the grass is greener on the other side.

I can’t say for sure one way or the other, but I do believe you take yourself and your small (and tidal-wave) stuff with you wherever you go. It’s all a part of who you are. So is making the best plan using whatever you have at hand - like our sukkah cyclist. That takes vision, passion, and sheer grit.

There is a story in this newspaper that touched me in terms of sheer dedication and commitment to fulfilling a goal. It’s about a young girl of 13 who, for a number of years, has dedicated four hours a day six days a week to gymnastics training (see page 22). Her mother says she has tried a number of times to get her to give up and share her focus with school, drama (her other passion), and a social life, but Luca Lazarus is dedicated. Her mother says she is not a natural gymnast in a number of ways, but her sheer grit and determination led her to winning a national gold medal last week. She is at the top of her game. Luca has showed me and so many others that raw talent is wonderful, but making a plan and having passion and commitment to excellence is what it’s all about.

She inspires me. As we move on from Rosh Hashanah 5780 and Yom Kippur, these are the abiding thoughts that remain in my head. For me, 5780 is going to be about continuing to sweat the small stuff and proving that grit, guts, passion, and a good plan are the way to excellence.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!


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