This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared

Every year, by the time I finish reading the name of the book by Rabbi Alan Lew z”l, I wonder if I actually need to open the cover. The title says it all: This is real and you are completely unprepared. I read Rabbi Lew’s book about the Days of Awe as spiritual transformation every August.

I dedicate myself to preparation for Rosh Hashanah during the Hebrew month of Elul, the month preceding the new year. (By preparation, I do not actually mean rabbinic preparation though I must, of course, do that too: writing sermons, finding new inspirations for the service, figuring out how to welcome all the people who come to the doors of the synagogue for services and programs.)
When I write “preparation for the New Year,” I mean Cheshbon Hanefesh, taking an accounting of my soul.
I take the work seriously every year.
This year, I take it even more seriously.
Lew writes:
“In the visible world, we live out our routine and sometimes messy lives. We have jobs, families, and houses. Our lives seem quite ordinary and undramatic. It is only beneath the surface of this world that the real and unseen drama of our lives is unfolding… only there that the horn sounds 100 times, that the gate between heaven and earth opens and the great books of life and death open as well. It is there that the court is convened, that we rehearse our own death, that the gate closes again, and that we finally come home…”

How do I prepare? How do I go below the surface of my ordinary life to do the work that Rabbi Lew so eloquently describes? I pray. I make lists of what I am proud of and what I need to improve. I apologize with full heart to anyone I might have harmed.
Most of all, I get very quiet. Only by turning off the noise of the world can I go below the surface.
This year, because of my cancer diagnosis and my chemotherapy regimen, I have less energy for this work. Yet the work that I am able to do feels more poignant and so much more real.
I am more capable of focusing on what is important. I am kinder to myself, recognizing moments where I push myself beyond reasonable effort and calling a halt to such perfectionism. Because I am tired more often, I am quiet more often. It is amazing what my soul has to say when I stop and listen.
When I greet my community this year at services for Rosh Hashanah, I intend to be shining.
I am so grateful for the strength and health that I do have.
I am blessed by wise and compassionate physicians and nurses.
I am held by family, friends and community.
I have so many plans for the future, and this forward focus fuels my healing. I am filled with creativity and spiritual energy, almost as if God is saying to me, “Have no fear. I have many more plans for you.”
For the first time in my life during the month of Elul, I am indeed not entirely unprepared.
I encourage all of you not to wait for a crisis to find yourself able to truly prepare for a new year. Feel the urgency as this year comes to a close and a bright new year awaits you.

L’Shana Tova Tikateivu. May you be written for a good new year.
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill


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7 responses to “This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared”

  1. Judy says :

    Thank you, Rebbe.



    From: Two Rabbis, One Voice, Three Opinions [] Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2018 10:05 PM To: Subject: [New post] This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared

    Rabbi Paula Mack Drill posted: “Every year, by the time I finish reading the name of the book by Rabbi Alan Lew z”l, I wonder if I actually need to open the cover. The title says it all: This is real and you are completely unprepared. I read Rabbi Lew’s book about the Days of Awe as spi”

    • Rileen Rogers says :

      Dearest Rabbi Paula:r: Your strength and your insights are a beacon of light to me and indeed to all of our congregation. May you go from strength to strength.luv Eileen Rogers

  2. J. Scott (Yitzchak) says :

    L’Shanna Tova, Rabbi Drill. As the way, one must balance him/herself by having the time to be active and to think vs. having the time to be quiet and to let go of whatever going on at any moment. True healing requires an equilibrium between these two realities. We all have the innerness and our outer environment.

  3. Jilana Dellal says :

    Paula, I feel so privileged to be on this mailing list for your posts. This reminds me that even with health and other advantages, we always need to pay attention to what our soul is telling us. This also reminds me that I should re-read Rabbi Lew’s book which you originally recommended to me. On another note, I had a wonderful visit with Donna Schwartz on Great Diamond Island and she sends her best wishes.

    Love, Jilana

  4. Lydia Katz says :

    Dear, Dear Rabbi.. You are so right. God does have many more plans for you and so God is around you taking care, sending you messages when you do not take care of yourself, and answering the payers of all who love you and, yes, need you. We will all go through the days of awe together and hopefully will all be together on the other side.

  5. Rhonda Plawner says :

    And May you Rabbi Paula Mack Drill be written in the Book for many more good and healthy New Years.
    With love and affection

  6. superwoman910 says :

    Thank You for this reminder that an ordinary life is extraordinary and that prayer and love and intention are Hashem’s tools for us to live authentically and fully. Sending my greatest intentions to you and all of US xo

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