Today is start of the last week of Elul. The beginning of the end. It is the point where Rosh Hashana begins to register for many of us. But if that were true, if we didn’t have 3 weeks of Elul behind us, we would feel disoriented, overwhelmed.
In fact, I distinctly remember feeling that way in years past. As tired as I am, as un-enthusiastic as I am for the early (early-ER) morning davening, I prefer this to the alternative.
I remember reading a J.D. Salinger book for the first time (“Franny and Zooey”). I was confused about what was happening, who the characters were, and why they were even IN the story. I asked a friend about it and she laughed.
“Then you’re doing it right,” she consoled me. “Every Salinger book should have a page inserted right before the first page of story that says ‘You’re late. Be quiet and catch up.’ “.
Knowing this helped, in an odd way.
Judaism seems to allow for both views. On the one hand, we are given the chance to prepare for each upcoming holiday. In fact, there’s a book called “Shloshim Yom Kodem HaChag” (30 days before the holiday) that has daily information to help us prepare for the upcoming holiday.
But at the same time, many books – including Mishna and Gemarrah – seemingly delight in throwing the reader into the middle of the pool and asking them to swim to the edge.
Both are valid learning styles.
At the end of the day, it’s not as much about how you start, but it’s that you choose to start AT ALL.