In depth with Rebbetzin Deb Levy Friedler
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In depth with Rebbetzin Deb Levy Friedler

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Friedler and family.
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Friedler and family.

Q What are your tips and tricks to surviving the chaos of the High Holy Days?

Don’t let the things that don’t matter get in the way of the things that do matter. I think it is always useful to remember the difference between halachah (Jewish law), minhag (custom) and your vision. If you have ticked off the first two, then everything else is a bonus! This can help us to focus on what is really important and let go when things don’t go to plan.

Q Are there any sneaky short cuts you use?

Before I was a mum, I used to do things as perfectly as I could. Now with five children and another on the way, please God, I am a passionate believer of taking as many short cuts as you can! My favourite kitchen tip is from my mum. Line everything you can with baking paper (even things you are not baking) as it makes cleaning up afterwards so much easier!

Q How do you get the kids involved in the festivities?

Our tribe ranges from nine months to 17 years so it can be challenging catering for different ages and personalities.

We find getting our older children involved in community projects for the chagim (B’nei Akiva leadership, helping at shule, communal cooking, volunteering) gives them an opportunity to shine and instils the value of contributing without the tension of nagging under time pressure to get stuff done at home.

For our little ones, they love just tagging along and being part of the action, so the most important thing is that we demonstrate (or even feign if necessary) joy and enthusiasm for preparing for the chagim. Then they also get excited and want to be involved.

Q What does this chag mean to you? Why is it special?

I find the chagim an annual milestone for measuring and reflecting on change and growth. Because each festival is so distinct and comes around every year, it is the perfect way to take stock and think about how far we have come as individuals and a family.

For me this year is special as we have been through more change together in the past year than ever before. I like to appreciate the improvements we have made in Torah and Yiddishkeit (or pause and reflect if we feel we are slipping). I always have a sense of wonder at the changes in ages, abilities, geography, and so on, as our journey continues.

Q What is a Rosh Hashanah ‘must have’ or ‘must do’ for your family?

My husband introduced me to the Rosh Hashanah simanim – special symbolic foods like carrots, cabbage, pomegranate, apples, leeks and dates for example. Each have special meaning and special prayers you can make for the year ahead (definitely worth a google if – like me – you didn’t grow up with them). It gives the Rosh Hashanah table an almost seder-like quality of holding up symbols and asking questions which are great for kids and adults alike.

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