The current month of Elul - leading up to the Days of Awe - is imperative for us. Our sages tell us that G-d feels closer to us now and that we are supposed to prepare ourselves for the holiest Jewish days.
Five years ago, a medical student approached me and inquired ‘why is it that we need to prepare ourselves? Let me just come in and pray and repent on the day!’
During the ensuing conversation, I asked him what field he planned to specialize in. He replied cardiology. I then asked him where he was up to. He sighed and said ‘I am over three years into it and still have at least another nine to go!’ When I enquired why, he explained that he was soon due to take the USML exams, then at least a three-year residency program, get board certified, followed by a cardiology fellowship for another handful of years, only after which he can begin seeking a job!
At this point, I turned to him and said, ‘why don’t you just cut to the chase and look for a job right now? Why jump through all those hoops?’ He looked at me as if I was insane, ‘Rabbi you have to be trained and qualified or no one will hire you.’ To which I replied, ‘There’s the answer to your first question.’ If we just show up entirely unprepared and unconnected on the High Holy Days, we will simply be untrained for the role of repentance and connection to Hashem! The good news is that preparing for the Days of Awe and getting ourselves in the right mindset is far easier than becoming a cardiologist. But we must remember that our spiritual soul, the entity that will live on for eternity, requires and deeply desires this connection to G-d.
May Hashem grant us the ability to be able to reconnect and to help us inspire ourselves so that we can truly repent and pray meaningfully over the High Holy Days!