By Rabbi Michael Schwab
In the category of “Mom Always Knows Best” I vividly recall a scene from my childhood when my mother inquired if I had a test coming up. She followed with “Did you start studying yet?” The answer was usually “no” and the result, if I didn’t course-correct quickly, was predictable. For my mother knew that if there was something important on the horizon, the wisest course of action was to prepare for whatever that something was.
Big presentation at work? Important conversation with your child? Torah reading for the Bat Mitzvah celebration? Public speaking engagement? Big project due? Passover Seder to host? Every one of these requires preparation to have them turn out well — or at least to make the very most out of the opportunity.
This Shabbat ushers in the Hebrew month of Elul, the month before the Yamim Noraim (The Days of Awe) or what we often call, the High Holidays. During the High Holidays we reflect on our year and on ourselves. We identify those mistakes we have made and faults we possess. We make an effort to apologize to those we have wronged and to construct a plan to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. To say that this is both a large and important project would be an understatement.
Thus, the Rabbis designated this month as a month to prepare for this monumental task. We blow the shofar every morning of Elul to stir us into action and to remind us to begin our introspection and repentance now! Admitting a mistake and finding the strength to actually apologize takes time and energy. It is almost impossible to do on one day, or even over the ten days inclusive of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So remember that both Mom and the Rabbis usually know best: when something important is on the horizon, it is always best to prepare.
I hope that this month of Elul paves the way for a meaningful start to the New Year as we each learn to grow from our mistakes and consequently make the world better!