Ummm. No. Not really. Cooking for dinner-yes, ready for my guests. For the holidays, no. Never. High Holy Days, kinda not my thing. Sukkot-enjoy Sukkot. But ready for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Nope.
These are remnants of the canned answers I gave to the question, "So are you ready for the holiday?" Internally, I kept thinking/questioning. Stream of Consciousness: work - lot's to do on that checklist, cleaning-a little every day, planning dinner menu, starting soup, shopping for cooking ingredients. I'm lonely right now - not entrenched in a synagogue community. Wish I were in Dallas for the holidays. Should I go to Dallas? Maybe New York. No - travel too much, stay here-here is lonely. Have to go get tickets. Tickets for the holidays, sucks. Membership dues for shuls - sucks even more. Have to get tickets. Need to go to synagogue. Not sure why I need to go, not a huge fan anyway. Consider riding the couch for the weekend. No, get tickets. It's the right thing. Don't forget to pay mid-month bills.
It makes no sense to be going about your daily life, worrying about daily stresses, and wake up one day "ready for the holiday." And then, for the first time ever, it hit me. That's the point of Elul. Elul is the Jewish month preceding Tishrei (the Jewish month that starts with Rosh HaShanah). Elul ... 29 days preceding the Holy Days. The point of Elul - 29 days of ramping up.
As a Jewish educator, I know that there are rituals that some people perform during Elul.
- hearing the Shofar blow each day - the blasts awakening us, calling us
- reciting Psalm 27
- reciting Selichot
- and less traditionally: reading special books and poems, journaling, meditating, etc
But I have never participated in them (other than attending an occasional Selichot program the Saturday before RH). [Note: This year, I went to a local congregation that was performing the staged reading/play "Standing at Sinai" which was written by my dear friend, Jeff Bernhardt. But I bailed before services.]
So - lesson learned. I need Elul. And while going to shul every day for Shacharit (morning prayers) to hear the Shofar blow might not be "my thing," I need to figure out what my thing is. Maybe finding someone to blow the Shofar for me on my own time schedule (even over the phone or Skype), maybe some guided journaling, and maybe spending a few minutes on each day of Elul calling one person I haven't talked to in a while (idea taken from a friend of mine!).
Whatever it is, one thing is for sure, I need to ramp-up. I can't just drop into the holidays and expect to feel something. I need Elul.
Wishing all of my friends and family a Happy and Healthy New Year and a Yom Kippur of meaning.