I had my recurring dream the other night, the one which comes especially this time of year. There are variations of the dream, but the scenario is always the same. This time, I dreamt that I suddenly realized at 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon that it was first day of Rosh Hashana and that I had forgotten to let the cantor and members of the congregation know that I would not be there for the first day of the holiday. Variations of this dream are that it is the High Holidays and I am standing in front of the congregation and left my sermon either on my desk at home or in my office, or that I have not yet written or completed writing it. I always wake up in a panic and am relieved to discover it was merely a bad dream and not reality.
I will leave it to the disciples of Freud to interpret this dream. I interpret it as meaning that the holidays will soon be upon us and that I must begin preparing for them, or I won’t be ready.
For me, getting ready for the holidays entails deciding which of the themes that I have thought about all year long I am going to address in my sermons. It means reviewing the liturgy and prayer book. I meet with the staff to be sure that the logistical arrangements are taken care of so that all will go smoothly. I also make a point of studying and reading either new materials or reviewing texts and books which I have previously learned in order to help to put me in the mood and proper frame of mind.
But it is not only rabbis who need to prepare for the holidays. Each and every one of us can benefit from preparing. Just as athletes stretch and warm up prior to taking the field and musicians have their routine to warm up before they begin their work, similarly, we can learn from them the importance of advance preparation as we approach the holidays. In fact, a story in the Talmud and attributed to the Hasidic Masters as well, tells us of sages who pointedly would prepare for prayer by spending an hour or so meditating before they would begin their worship.
There are any of a numbers of ways to begin to prepare for the holidays. One way is to think and reflect on the themes of the season – return, repentance, Teshuvah, new beginnings and reconnecting with family and tradition are a few of them. Another way to explore the meaning of the season is by reading about it.
And hopefully if you do all this, you will be ready and won’t wake up in a cold sweat worrying that you missed the High Holidays.
Also published on Medium.