My friend Vince Wood has been on a road trip, and my family was excited to give him a place to stop the last few days. Last night, as we were unpacking the days events and wrapping up for the evening, he noticed what I was doing and asked about it.
“Why are you putting napkins on the table before you go to bed?”
While the simple answer was that it was part of my night time routine, it got me thinking. Why DO I do that?
Years ago, I read an article about reducing stress. One of the suggestions – and the one that’s stuck with me since then – was “take care of tomorrow today”. Examples included everything from making sure the gas tank is filled the night before you go on a trip (or even just drive to work) to picking your clothes out before you go to bed. This drove my current end-of-day rituals: setting out breakfast utensils, medicine, and setting the coffee pot to start brewing 15 minutes before I (hope to) get into the kitchen.
In the past I’ve commented here and over on the Edible Torah website about the funny-because-it’s-true answer when asked “when does Shabbat begin?”: “Wendesday, when you get the laundry done and Friday dinner planned out. Because if you’re doing that stuff on Friday afternoon, you are LATE.”
So very often in life, we are scrambling to handle situations we knew were coming. We put off everything from shopping for school supplies to testing our system backups to having end-of-life conversations with loved ones – not because we lack time or resources, but because it’s far enough ahead of us (or so we think) that we feel comfortable putting it off.
To this I say (to myself, more than anyone who might be reading) Elul is here. Rosh Hashana is going to come, just as it has for over 3,000 years. Choosing not to prepare for that moment serves nobody. The time to prepare is upon us.