A lot of time is spent discussion HOW to prepare. How to cultivate the correct mindset, how to set up a space conducive to the work of preparation, how to arrange our schedule and lives.
But WHY do we prepare?
I remember watching the 1994 winter olympics and marveling at downhill racer Picabo Street. Her time slot came up and she was nowhere to be found. The rules stated that she had 2 minutes to show up, so everyone just stood around waiting. At about the 1 minute mark, a truck came sliding up the path, and Picabo jumped out of the back of the truck with her skis already on. She rushed into starting position and without any of the usual back-and-forth preparation, she was out of the gate and down.
Her race time was remarkable.
Afterward the interviewer asked what had happened. Apparently this was her “thing” – showing up late and then rushing. “By the time I get into the gate, I’m already racing,” she said. “my mind is already in that mode.”
I thought it was a brilliant way to short-circuit the over-thinking that comes with athletic performance.
But it’s NOT an example of non-preparation. It’s an example of a very particular kind of prepartion for a very particular kind of experience. She was still prepared. She had her racing outfit on. The skis were already on her feet. She knew, when she left her hotel room, the shortest distance to the racing venue.
Rosh Hashana also requires very particular preparation. The lesson we can learn from Ms. Street is NOT that skidding sideways into great events is the way to go. The lesson is that we need to evaluate “the event” and tailor our preparation to suit IT – the event. Not to suit US – our own personal preferences.
As Rabbi Davidovich mentions in his BlogElul post:
“Tishrei and its great Events, can only be as meaningful as the journey that gets us there. The reward, or the glory of Tishrei and all its gifts, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkos and Simchas Torah, is proportional to the Elul efforts we put in.”
So today, our job is to think about the events which are coming and then be mature enough to plot out the preparation which will bring us to that day – whether it suits our own sense of convenience or not – in a way that allows us to be our best selves.