Devil’s in the details

By Ruchi Koval

Editor’s note: Ruchi Koval is the guest speaker for the upcoming Federation Women's Retreat on March 22. This article was recently featured on her blog,, and we thought it fit perfectly with this month’s “Planning Your Simcha” theme.

Well, the bar mitzvah is over, and I’ve noticed something weird. When I am hosting an event, I can’t eat. My adrenaline is sky-high, and I’m consumed with thinking of my guests and if they are enjoying and comfortable. If you’re anything like me, you’ll recognize some of these obsessive thoughts:

Does everyone look happy? Is everyone eating? Is there enough food? Is the food attractive? Did the little kids destroy the centerpieces yet (yes, they collected all the artfully arranged Harry Potter wands)? Is there too much food? Shoot, what will we do with all the leftovers? Are the relatives from the different sides connecting with each other? Have I paid attention to all the various categories of people who are here? Are my toes going to survive my high heels? Is there anyone I forgot to invite? 

They say the devil’s in the details. And he really is. The devil, that is. The “devil” will prey upon you to obsess about the details. A bar mitzvah, or any other milestone, is the most amazing opportunity to reflect on the big picture and have gratitude. Yet again, if you’re anything like me, you’re so busy hyper-obsessing about the micro that it’s easy to lose sight of the macro. 

And the interesting thing is that the voice of the devil doesn’t stop when the eventis over. Why, at 4 a.m. on Friday night, did both my husband and I wake up obsessing and replaying everything about the previous night’s family dinner? 

It wasn’t just the anxiety-filled thoughts. It was also about all the amazing moments: and then this happened and then that happened and what exactly did I say in my speech? Which exact words did I use? Did I remember to thank everyone (there’s the anxiety again)? 

I wonder, now that it’s over, for how many weeks will I continue to obsess about the details? Like now I am obsessing about the pictures—how many were taken, how did they come out? Were all the family members included? Why did I wear that scarf when a darker one would’ve been better? 

Of course my Type A personality swings right into “next time” mentality. Should I use the same photographer next time? Should I order from the same vendors? What would I do differently, what would I do the same? 

I use the word “devil” tongue-in-cheek, but the truth is that Judaism teaches us that there is a toxic voice inside each of our heads that tries to derail us, and the journey of our growth will be dependent upon how we overcome or breathe through those voices. 

Whenever you have a situation that is so rich with opportunity for connection and reflection and gratitude, I can guarantee you that that toxic voice will show up and try to derail the moment. Because while the devil is in the micro, the angels are singing in the macro. 

Every simcha is both an unbelievable opportunity and also a huge potential pitfall. It is moments like these that are at risk for all kinds of anxieties and ruffled feathers and fragile feelings. 

Which is exactly why we have to double down to resist those temptations and pressures, and maximize these moments. Because this is what makes life sweet; this is what makes all the struggles worth it.