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    February 2009            
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Make 2009 A Year of Simple Pleasures

By Amy Hirshberg Lederman

I can't remember a year of my life that I was happier bidding farewell to than 2008. Economic stress, family health issues, the situation in Israel and the constant barrage of global crises really wore me down. But when the ball dropped on New Year's Eve, so did some of the load I was carrying in my heart. Call me Polly Anna, but the new year always gives me a renewed sense of optimism about the future and a feeling that if we all put our minds to it, we can set things right again.

I woke up on January 1st to a gorgeous Tucson morning, the bright blue sky and warm temperatures were ideal for the hike my husband and I had planned to take. It was the perfect start to the New Year, and as we walked through the canyon, I was warmed by the sun and feelings of gratitude for the simple pleasures that bring so much joy into my life. After the hike I was tired, but in a good way, and felt energized to face the week ahead.

That evening, as I set my book down on the nightstand ready for a good night's sleep, I started thinking about what we can do in 2009 to help us recharge our "inner" batteries and renew our sense of enjoyment, inspiration and appreciation for life. Things we can all afford, regardless of income, like enjoying a beautiful day or snuggling up with a good book. Simple efforts that can remind us of how much we truly have, even as things around us become diminished or more difficult to achieve.

How can we reprogram ourselves to embrace the simple joys and pleasures of life when we are confronted daily with the pressures and demands of meeting our financial, professional, social and personal obligations and needs?

Jewish wisdom has invaluable advice when it comes to answering this question. The answer is not a "Secret" as the best-selling book by that name would suggest. In fact, it is so basic and available to all of us that it is hard to believe we haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet. The Jewish response lies in a weekly practice, one that permits us to find rest, renewal and delight in the simplicity of life and the world around us.

Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, is more than seventh day of the week. It is a metaphor for something more profound; a way of appreciating life, an invitation to let go of the things that dominate us during the week, like work, errands, chores and shopping. By letting go of the need to accomplish and "do", we create a space in time for us to just "be." Shabbat is a way to rejuvenate ourselves by taking time to be with the people we love and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

The commandment to honor the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments and is given twice in the Torah. The first time is in Exodus, when we are told to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. When Moses repeats the Decalogue in Deuteronomy, we are commanded to safeguard the Sabbath and sanctify it. It is taught that both commandments, to remember and safeguard, were uttered in the same word by God.

In the relentless pace of contemporary life, where we barely take time to stop and smell the coffee let alone enjoy an entire day, we can learn much from the metaphor of Shabbat and these two words- to remember and safeguard. It is a challenge to be sure, to consciously stop and remember that we need to safeguard and preserve the simple things in life that give us pleasure rather than to be compelled by the things that drive or obsess us, but from which we get little enjoyment.

Perhaps the Ten Commandments inspired David Letterman when he originally created his Top Ten Countdown. Following in the footsteps of my quasi-namesake, I offer Lederman's Top Ten Ideas on how to make 2009 a year of simple pleasures:

    10. Spend more time outdoors, walk when you can, and take time to notice the seasons.

    9. Surround yourself with the people you love. Take pictures of your family and friends and display them in your home and office.

    8. Play more games and read more books than you did in 2008.

    7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga or prayer. Find a spiritual path that provides inspiration for your life.

    6. Fix up a corner in your home where you can sit and relax, then take the time to do it!

    5. Acknowledge others and the kindnesses they give you.

    4. Make soup for a sick friend or visit someone who is lonely, even if you don't have the time.

    3. Smile more and laugh out loud.

    2. Share something good that happened to you during the week and ask a friend or family member to share what was good in theirs.

And the Number One Idea for Enjoying Simple Pleasures in 2009:

    1. Create a Sabbath for yourself – remember to preserve and protect time each week to rest, reflect, renew and delight in the simple things that give you pleasure!

Amy Hirshberg Lederman ( is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, author, Jewish educator, public speaker and attorney. Her new book "One God, Many Paths: Finding Meaning and Inspiration in Jewish Teachings" is available at and other online bookstores.


from the Februrary 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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