Where has the inspiration gone to, I wondered watching the newly-wed couple whisper together. They were standing a few steps away from the rest of us who were crowding round the bus stop, but those few steps were enough for them to create an island of privacy. I knew the young woman well: she was my neighbor’s eldest daughter and I had watched her growing up. Married all of two months. She was holding a heavy briefcase so I guessed she was on her way to her teaching job. Her husband had walked her to the bus stop. Lovely.

All new beginnings start off with a big bang and then, so often, these moments of great inspiration fizzle out into nothingnessThe bus pulled up, I got on. Behind me, one of the last to board, came the bride. She moved to the back of the bus, stood at a window facing the bus stop and as the bus moved away, she smiled softly and waved gently. My stomach lurched once as the bus began its climb up the hill and lurched again as I remembered the good bye I had given my husband that morning: a garbled jumble of vowels, consonants and the last gulp of my coffee, a flick of my wrist as I picked up the baby, my bag, the garbage and then ran up the steps, leaving the door wide open behind me. Now I wondered, what had happened to the inspiration? Where was it hiding?

I wondered about this again later on in the early evening when I stepped out into the garden. The leaves of the apple tree that we had bought but not yet planted were wilting. The herb patch of mint, zatar and lemon grass had begun to shrivel up in the warming spring weather. The cherry tomatoes, unsupported, were a tangled mass of stringy stalks and neglected leaves.

Only a month ago, I had taken the children to the nursery. After much deliberation we chose the apple tree with the most pinky-white flowers and the herbs that smelt the freshest. To top it all, I had agreed to a buy a packet of cherry tomato seeds. My six-year-old son and I had planted these together. We had mixed soil and fertilizer, carefully placed the seeds two centimeters under the soil, and watered the mixture well. Then I told him that when G‑d created the world nothing grew until Adam prayed, so we said a chapter of Psalms together.

He watered the seeds faithfully for two weeks and then, after the initial excitement at seeing the tiny green shoots pushing through the dark soil had worn off, he kept forgetting. Gardening was supposed to be an exciting family project, a chance for togetherness, I thought filling the watering can, why had it become my private project and where had the excitement gone?

First I plucked the stray weeds out of the dry soil and threw them aside. Merciless in my disillusion. Then I began to water the plants. As I watched the water spraying softly onto the parched earth, I remembered a Torah lesson I had learned.

Every beginning receives an injection of spiritual energy from G‑d to jump start it. The initial stages of any new undertaking are a time of rapid spiritual growth that require no input from us. This inspiration is a gift from G‑d. Passover is the prototype for beginnings. The inspiration that we received before and during the Exodus, in the form of countless miracles, was all a gift from our Creator. The Jews reached such lofty spiritual plains that when they left Egypt, they were able to reach the highest levels of prophecy: on the edge of the Red Sea, even the lowest maid servant reached the level of a prophet.

Forty nine days of wandering in the desert followed the miracle-laden exodus from Egypt. Here, without open miracles, it was tremendously difficult to feel the inspiration of the Exodus and to feel close to G‑d. The Jews had a hard climb by increments to reach the spiritual heights needed to merit receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai.

With this thought in mind, I could see the pattern of leaving Egypt repeating itself in my life. All new beginnings start off with a big bang and then, so often, these moments of great inspiration fizzle out into nothingness. Heights that we once scaled, lofty levels we once reached suddenly seem remote. Why is this?

I had found my inspiration between the weeds, among my thoughtsThe answer is that the only growth that really counts is that which we achieve through our own efforts. Initially, to help us, G‑d gives us a gift and shows us an image of what we can achieve. Once we have received this shot of inspiration, G‑d removes it and expects us to work towards it alone. The investment of hard work and sweat means we acquire the new level instead of simple being shown it. We can call our accomplishments our own because we actually become the new spiritual level.

I stored the watering can near the tap where my son would find it easily the next day. Then I piled up some stones to mark the spot where the children would dig a hole for the apple tree. One by one, the small pile grew steadily in height. By increments. I smiled: I had found my inspiration between the weeds, among my thoughts.

Back inside, I decided to make scrambled eggs with mushrooms because that is my husband’s favorite supper. I glanced at the clock; I even had time to whip up a simple cheese cake. As I beat the eggs, the hungry children began wandering into the kitchen. I raved about the sweetness of home-grown organic tomatoes. I fantasized about sitting under a shady apple tree and crunching on crispy apples. Then I asked one of the children to draw up a chart so that everyone would get a chance to water the plants. And I promised them that if they stuck to it for a month, we would order pizza.

Throughout the month of the High Holidays, we felt a yearning to change, to improve ourselves. Like all beginnings, the start of the year received a spiritual injection of inspiration from Above. In accordance with the pattern of life, for most of us, this inspiration has probably started to dissipate, like the early morning mist that hangs over a hillside. Now our job is to keep this inspiration within our sights by climbing in increments and thus turning the inspiration into a permanent part of our psyche.