On Thursday morning, together with close to 900 others Rabbis from across denominations, I participated in a pre-Rosh Hashana conference call with the President. As the operator of the call made introductory remarks, I was reminded of a great insight my colleague and good friend, Rabbi Gibber shared with me following last year’s call of a similar nature. The operator announced that while participants will all be able to hear the President, our phones would automatically be muted such that he can’t hear any of us. This is standard operation of a conference call of this size and undoubtedly would have been employed no matter who the President hosting the call.
When it comes to a call with the President of the United States of America, the leader of the free world, our voices are muted, and our input is silenced. The call was a monologue, not a dialogue. It is remarkable to consider that in contrast, when we conference with the Almighty, the King of Kings, the Creator of the World, our voices ring loudly, our input is welcomed and our opportunity to speak freely and openly is invited. We are blessed to have God’s ear, whenever and wherever we choose. We can close our eyes, shut out the world and communicate with our Creator whenever we like.
In less than a week from now, we will be sitting in Shul in marathon davening sessions. Could you imagine signing up to participate in the NY City or Boston Marathons and not training whatsoever? How well would you do if you kept your normal eating pattern and sedentary lifestyle and then just showed up on the starting line to begin the race? Not only would you not win, you would likely not make it past the first few miles. People who participate in marathons train for months, increase their stamina, their concentration, learn how to best pace themselves and adjust their diet to achieve maximum performance.
We are now a few days away from our marathon, two Rosh Hashana days of davening, followed by the intensity of the ten days of repentance and culminating in Yom Kippur. Have we trained adequately? Are we ready to not only qualify or complete the marathon, but to achieve our very best? Are we in maximum performance shape?
We simply cannot expect to just show up on Rosh Hashana and have a meaningful, purposeful, transformation experience. While we will likely blame the davening, the décor, the Rabbi or the location of our seat for why we were not moved or inspired, the truth is that the success of this time of the year is directly proportional to the effort and investment we make in it.
It is not too late to get ready. In the next few days set aside time to meditate and reflect on areas we can improve, mistakes we have made and how they can be avoided, things for which we should be appreciative and goals for the coming year. Give extra time, attention and effort to davening three times a day, preferably with a minyan and hone your ability to connect. Talk to Hashem like you are having coffee with your best friend who wants to hear everything in your life, because He is your best friend and He does want to hear everything.
If we spend time preparing and getting ready, I am confident we will have the best Yamim No’raim ever.