Every year as Elul begins, i think that I'm going to prepare for Rosh Hashanah in advance this time. That this time I will actually do some introspection before the new year. That this time I will not just pray properly each day, but do it with focus, at least for the month of Elul. That I will reach out to others and connect with them for the good this time.
You probably already know that each year, I get to the morning of Rosh Hashanah and realise that once again I have focused more on the menu than on inner growth.
Every year, so far, God has given me another chance. Every year I feel scared to ask for yet another one, because I messed up on this one. I honestly wish I could cower in bed instead of having to face my Creator with the nakedness of my soul. I wish I could wave a sign that says 'I'm not here, don't look at me'. But, of course, for God I am here. I am always here, because He is always here.
On Rosh Hashanah we accept God as our King. That doesn't mean soul searching and saying sorry. I think it means being present. It means that instead of hiding from God like the first Adam on the first Rosh Hashanah, I stand up straight and scared and answer 'Hineni - Here I am' like Abraham. No fancy prayers or pleas for forgiveness (that comes later). Simply 'I am here', because if I hide myself then I am also hiding an aspect of God.
I have lost too many friends to not be fearful of what a year can bring. But I force myself each Rosh Hashanah to face what it could bring. I remind myself that the talmud teaches 'ein melech bli am - there is no King without a people', meaning that somehow God is King only insofar as we, His people, are His people. I stand with fear and trembling because to be noticed by the King is to be singled out for dangerous attention, but I stand anyway.
I think sometimes that this is the big challenge of Rosh Hashanah. Not to make it all through that long morning of prayer with focus (or at all). Simply to find the courage to stand up before God and acknowledge that I am here, flawed and fearful.
The Kotzke Rebbe once famously asked a young man 'Where is God?'
The young man felt a little smug and answered 'God is everywhere'.
The Kotzke replied 'No. He is wherever you let Him in'.
I am here. and if I am here, then God is too. I pray for the courage to be here and for the gift of another year.