I am not ready.

Although I’ve taught Elul and thought Elul, though I’ve carefully penned Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li on letters, although I took on a tiny kabbalah on Rosh Chodesh and have been struggling all month to keep it up.

It is Erev Rosh Hashanah. The house is humming along quietly; I have no excuse. Still living in my parents’ home and lucky enough not to have work today, I feel an intense pressure to do more, prepare, be ready.

I set the table and run errands and, forgive me Hashem, have no choice but to spend two hours in the mall, procuring supplies for work. My job as teacher in elementary and high schools can’t take a rest — this is my only day off and Tzom Gedalyah will see me back in the classroom at 9:00 a.m. I spend the bus ride in a haze of guilt, self-justification, and the flutter of butterflies: I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not ready.

Not ready to stand in judgment.

Not ready for the recall: each moment, each captured snapshot of time frozen in a space that bears witness for all and forever.

Not ready for the blast, the awakening. Not ready for the wrenching sobs from tens of dozens of people who must be better prepared.

Certainly not ready for the impossibly powerful words: Mi yichyeh…

And suddenly it is the afternoon. The last few precious hours of 5776, and everything is prepared except me, and I am sitting on my bed and —

I should be getting ready!

Suddenly, there are a thousand things to do with the time left.

I should listen to another shiur, one of the dozens I downloaded, knowing I couldn’t possibly finish them all. I could say more Tehillim or prepare from the machzor and oh, the phone calls — my grandparents, of course, but there’s also extended family and my friends, married and single, here in England or far away in Israel (two hours ahead, better hurry up) or America (five hours behind, I can call just before candlelighting — they’ll still be sleeping now!).

I sigh and opt for the phone calls. “I don’t feel ready,” I tell one friend. She’s making a salad, something to bring over to her parents when she and her husband join them for the meals.

“Me neither,” she says, and I hear the echo of guilt in her voice. “And you know, I don’t even have children yet. I feel like I have no excuse.”

I finish the phone call with the sudden thought that maybe no one is ready.

After all, how possibly could anyone be ready? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 560)