Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul will be August 26th and 27th. This means that there is one month and counting to Rosh Hashanah (Wednesday evening, September 24th). Many people might ask, “So, what?” or might think, “Thanks for the reminder to buy a brisket!” However, the answer to “So, what?” is that we have one month to prepare for Rosh Hashanah … and Yom Kippur.
Why would one want to prepare for Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment when the Almighty decides “Life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth.” Does it make sense to prepare for a day of judgment? You bet! However, for many it has the same emotional impact as their cardiologist telling them that they need to lose weight to avoid heart attacks and strokes… a wonderful idea between meals!
There is a tremendous benefit to living in Miami Beach. It’s a hurricane zone. Around May you get the annual predictions — 7 to 12 tropical storms, 3 to 6 hurricanes, 0 to 2 major hurricanes. They actually have ways of measuring, correlating and predicting the number and size of storms. At the beginning of the season we start buying bottled water and batteries to prepare. We put a new battery in the weather radio which broadcasts the position and strength of the storms. We even have a chart where we mark off the present location of storms out there in the Caribbean.
Why is living in a hurricane zone a benefit? It teaches you a very important lesson: Be real with life! Usually, the weather bureau (N.O.A.A. — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) gives a week’s heads up. You know that in 7 days a Force 3 or 4 or 5 hurricane will hit. You generally know for sure whether it will hit land, you just don’t know whether for sure it will hit YOU until perhaps a day or a few hours before landfall.
What happens during that week? The hardware store sells out all of its plywood (used for covering windows) and batteries. They have to make special shipments from neighboring states! The grocery stores shelves are cleared out or seriously diminished of canned goods and water. People are scrambling to buy generators to provide electricity needed to keep the lights on, fans going and the refrigerator and freezer working. There is a mad dash for last minute preparations because the STORM IS COMING!
What’s the difference between a hurricane and Rosh Hashanah? The hurricane MAY hit your area; Rosh Hashanah DEFINITELY will touch you!
So, if one believes in a God who has set a standard for behavior and observance in the Torah and who will judge us, does it make sense to make some preparations? It would be reasonable to think so.
How can one prepare for the Day of Judgment? Here are:
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREPARE
FOR ROSH HASHANAH
- Take a spiritual accounting. Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year — a) your behavior with family, friends, associates and people you’ve interacted with, and b) your level of mitzvah observance.
- Attend a class or classes at a synagogue.
- Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers.
- Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (One is supposed to give 10% of his net income). It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree — Teshuva(repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?
- Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards — and correct the situation.
- Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family — what you want to work towards and pray for.
- Limit your pleasures — the amount of television, movies, music, food — do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously.
- Do an extra act of kindness — who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?
- Read a book on character development.
- Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve. A real friend will tell you … but in a nice way!