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Waking Up for Rosh Hashanah

August 31, 2017 | by Emuna Braverman

Don’t live your life by rote.

Sometimes it seems like Rosh Hashanah is upon us before we have time to notice. Summer is ending and school is starting and we barely have time to catch our breath, let alone prepare for the holiday. We know we have to find the time to throw a brisket and some kugels in the oven but spiritual preparation? With school supplies to purchase and back-to-school night to attend, the demands of the New Year seem less pressing.

And other times, the High Holy Days are up close and personal, confronting me head-on, yelling at me to wake up, to repent, to grow, to change. “It’s now or never,” the voices scream at me.

I really can’t explain the differences in attitude. Some of it is timing. This year Elul began in mid-August leaving plenty of prep time before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some of it is serendipitous. And some of it is the continued passing of time, the sense that life is moving on, more and more quickly, that we better hasten to catch up. All of these factors seem to collide this year as I feel the exhortations of the month crashing against my eardrums. “Wake up! WAKE up! WAKE UP!”

Okay, you got my attention. My eyes are wide open. I’m on alert. But what am I waking up to? What insight do I need to embrace? What growth do I need to enforce? What’s the change in my relationship with the Almighty that is essential? These questions reverberate in my brain as I struggle to make the most of the month of Elul, the month that leads to the High Holidays, the propitious time for preparation.

We all get comfortable. We all get complacent. We drift into living our lives on automatic pilot and forget to choose. And yet it’s the act of choosing that makes us human and makes us the unique individuals that each of us is.

We don’t want to live our life by rote. We certainly don’t want to have relationships that are managed in the most pro forma of ways. We want friends that we choose, marriages that we are committed to, children that we invest in. This is all demonstrated through our choices, and not through just by going through the motions.

The other night one of my children needed to talk to me. My children are not small; they’re adults. I could have insisted they wait til the morning. I was in bed. I was tired. I wanted to relax. I wanted to go to sleep. That was the comfortable choice. But I roused myself to speak to my child. Because choosing that relationship and choosing that investment is what life’s about, not sleep.

My husband called when I was in the middle of writing this article. I wanted to put him off. I didn’t want to break my concentration. I wanted to get this finished. I didn’t want to be bothered with “distractions”. But I took a deep breath and refocused. I chose my relationship with him over getting my work done. I chose to be invested in our future over a momentary gain.

I know it sounds so trivial but it is through these small seemingly insignificant choices that people are created and relationships are sustained.

It’s so easy not to choose. It’s so effortless to stay on cruise control. But anything that really counts – a meaningful career, relationship with those we love, a connection with the Almighty – only comes through choosing – to rise above our bodies, to do that which requires effort, to live like a soul, to invest in our spouse, in our children, in our Creator.

This year, this Elul I seem to have more time to focus. I hope I choose to use that focus well and appropriately. I hope that I spend the year woke (!), not in the politically correct sense, but in the spiritual one!!

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