You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that one cranky and tired pre-schooler plus one cranky and tired baby, equals one very cranky and tired mother. This was the equation of the morning I had the other day. A morning that started at five o'clock and lasted for four hours until my son entered pre-school and I put my daughter down for her nap. Mornings like these have the power to put a damper on my entire day until night falls and I can hope for a better tomorrow.

Why not make two negatives equal a positive? Today began in a similar way, yet I decided to do something different. I looked at my equation. Why not make two negatives equal a positive? Could I do it? Judaism places such important emphasis on the female role that the Sages equate a woman to her entire home. In Hebrew, the woman of the house is called the "akeret habayit," the essence of the home. Akeret comes from the word ikar, which refers to the central part or core. This word also comes from the same root as the word akar, to uproot. So on that difficult morning, I was in the midst of tears when I suddenly asked myself, "Elana, do you want to infuse your home with a lovely essence by being the akeret habayit, or are you going to fall into the trap of being angry and be the okrut bayit, an uprooter? Is this really how you want to start out your day?"

I knew what I had to do. I swept up my crying baby with one hand and grabbed my whining son with the other, and I started to dance and sing at the top of my lungs. The distraction worked, and before I knew it, we were laughing instead of crying, singing instead of screaming. The rest of the day has gone smoothly, and tonight when I fall asleep, I can assure you that I'm going to say a little prayer that tomorrow should be like today. It's amazing how beginnings really do make a difference.

Have you ever wondered why there is a custom to dip an apple in honey on Rosh Hashanah? To eat the head of a fish (or sheep, depending on your custom) and not the tail? On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, many also have the custom to refrain from eating bitter foods and specifically try to eat sweet ones. The Sages also caution that on Rosh Hashanah, one should make an extra effort to refrain from arguments to help ensure a peaceful year. One might ask, "Why does this one day have so much significance that it has the power to influence the rest of the year?"

Hagar and Ishmael were on the brink of death because of their thirst in the desert, when "G‑d heard the cry of the youth (Ishmael), and an angel of G‑d called to Hagar from Heaven and said to her, 'What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for G‑d has heeded the cry of the youth in his present state. Arise, lift up the youth and grasp your hand upon him, for I will make a great nation of him.' Then G‑d opened her eyes and she perceived a well of water; she went and filled the skin with water and gave the youth to drink" (Genesis 21:17-19).

The commentary (Bereishit Rabba 53:14) explains that at this moment, the angels in Heaven went before G‑d and declared, "Master of the World, the one who in the future will cause Your children, Israel, to die of thirst, for this one you are providing a well of water?"

G‑d asked them, "In this moment, is he (Ishmael) righteous or wicked?"

"Righteous," they answered.

"Judgment is passed in this world based on the present moment," He proclaimed.

We can use this time to open our hearts and pray for the strength to let goRosh Hashanah isn't just any day of the year. As its name describes, it is the "Rosh," the head of the "shana," year, and beginnings set the tone. With each dipping of the apple in the honey, and with each moment that we are able to control ourselves by not getting upset, we can add a special prayer that this action set the precedence for a sweet and peaceful year. We can also use this time to open our hearts and pray for the strength to let go and forgive, and pray to be forgiven, allowing us to embark on the path for a new and bright start. Shanah tova u'metuka, a good and sweet year that is ignited with a good and sweet beginning!