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The Observant Jew 

Preparing for the Days of AAUUGGHH!! 

Well, folks, Elul is upon us. In my yeshivah, Elul was a magical time. It conveyed special meaning and feeling as we strove to improve ourselves in preparation for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

There were special shmuessen designed to inspire us. We learned mussar out loud as a group, and in general, the mood was somber and more solemn than other times of the year.  In fact, there was an old joke about a car driving through Yerushalayim on Shabbos. The  Yerushalmi threw rocks and screamed, “Shabbos! Shabbos!” The Telzer threw rocks and  yelled, “Elul! Elul!”

So, this week, I looked at the trusty Ezras Torah luach, already hung up for the New Year, and started reading what we will be doing soon. I read how on Erev Rosh Hashana we get up before Alos HaShachar (waaayyy before humans were meant to get up), and say extended Selichos (you mean there’s more??) plus, it is customary to fast half a day on Erev Rosh Hashana.  My thoughts spiraled out of control as I conjured up visions of dark mornings, long  dreary Selichos, and constant sleep deprivation, I  thought to myself (ashamed to admit it though I am), “Baruch Hashem for MarCheshvan!”

Ok, that all took place in about three nanoseconds, and then I caught myself. I imagine I’m not the only one who’s ever had these thoughts, but I hope I’m not the only one who did a retraction instantaneously.

If you look at Selichos and getting up early as “avodah,” work, then it may very well seem dreary. But I have another way to look at it, as I will now explain.  I’ve invented a hypothetical contest. In it, someone gets the opportunity to work for Ronald Grump, wealthy real estate mogul, toupee model and entrepreneur (any similarity to real persons is purely coincidental.) There’s a catch. He doesn’t want just to tell you what to do; he wants to see how you think. He will give you six weeks to pitch him your best ideas and why you’re the one he should entrust you to run the projects.

It gets better. Mr. Grump, (The Ronald, as he likes to call himself) has very specific times when he wants to hear what you have to say. He wants you to meet him for breakfast. Did I mention he eats breakfast on the subway at 4 A.M.?  You’ve been chosen as a contestant. What do you do? If he likes your style, your starting salary will shadow that of members of Congress….all of them put together.

Instead, you decide that it’s too much trouble and stick to your current lifestyle. Thanks anyway Mr. Grump – but I’M TIRED!

Ok, so that’s not likely. We all know we’d be there at 3:45 with coffee and Danish and a big can of Lysol. It’s not often you get an opportunity like that, so you’d be crazy to miss it.

Well, each year, we get the same opportunity. Actually, it’s a much better one. When we get up early for Selichos, we’re meeting with THE BOSS. We may be crowded into a shul, but His attention is focused on US. He’s ready to listen to our ideas. When we blow the shofar and say L’Dovid Hashem Ori, we’re telling him our game plan for success, and it’s all built around Him.  If He likes what we have to say, and feels we’re sincere, we’ll get a successful year of life, health, wealth, happiness, and all the good that comes with being G-d’s right-hand  man, His “apprentice” if you will, doing His business, and making Him (and ourselves) happy.

In the haftarah read on fast days, the prophet Yeshaya (55:6) tells us, “Seek out Hashem while He can be found; call to Him while He is close.” The next six weeks are when He is closest and ready for us to pitch Him our ideas of why we deserve this chance. Who could pass that up?

Oh, and did I mention the best part of the contest? We’re not competing against anyone — but ourselves.

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