"What are you doing?" Kallah grogily asked me at 4:35 a.m..
"Getting dressed for minyan at 5:00. Erev Rosh Ha Shanah Slichos begin in a few minutes and are rather lengthy."
She turned over in a moment of sleepy indifference as if to say:
"Given your year, you do have much to be penitential about!"
So ... I gathered my trusty bicycle, tucked my right pants cuff in my sock and raced off to shul just a few minutes before 5:00. My efficiency paid off because I was able to get in a few laps around the shul parking lot before joining the Slichos minyan. Nothing like a little sweat before standing before the Holy One, Blessed be He!
Came back from shul around 7:30 and began pulling all the last minute strings together for tonight, the evening that heralds the beginning of 5768. I've always`liked that term "heralds" but I never have heard those "much heralded" trumpets blow as they're supposed to when one says "heralds". Guess I have to be content with the blowing of the Shofar, 100 "kolos" (blasts) on each of the two days of yontiff.
It's just me and Kallah for dinner tonight though I will enjoy the company of my Dad
and younger son Zac tonight together with me at shul although Zac will drive his Grandpa home afterward and return himself to his new digs but not first without a take-home yontiff meal prepared by yours truly. Sorry but given my family's observance predelictions, it's the best I can do, but I make no apologies as we are who we are.
In these few thoughtful moments before I have to check the progress of the turkey breast yet again, I am reminded of a little speech I gave the morning of Zac's bar mitzvah ocncerning the legendary Rabbi of Nemirov who absented himself from Slichos because he was out performing acts of chesed in the wee hours of the morning, such as preparing some kindling for a widow's fireplace as there was no one else to do it.
Yes, of course, he disguised himself as a peasant woodchopper. In this way, he not only accomplished some much needed work but prepared the way for his own tshuva as well. The common folks of his town speculated as to his whereabouts but one thing was for certain he was not at his shtender in the beis medrash, but off in the heavens, folks eagerly said, chatting as it were with The One Above.
There was a skeptical fellow in town as it happened, a "pisher" one might say, who was determined to expose the Rabbi of Nemirov for the fraud that he, the young fellow, was certain that he was ... so he slipped into his house late one night, crawled under the saint's bed and awaited his awakening. And as you might imagine, the saintly Rav awoke, dressed himself as a woodcutter and off went he to prepare the kindling for the aged widow's fire.
The young skeptic followed him on tippy toes and was flabberghasted that indeed the Rav was performing such seemingly menial tasks but understand he did for the next day in the town square he overheard local shul folks blathering on endlessly, as was their custom, about the absence of the much loved Rav.
"He's in shamayim at the right hand of the Aibishter!" said the most convinced and articulate of the small assembly gathered.
The others nodded in collective accord, but the one-time cynic who had witnessed the good deeds of the Saint, having overheard the accolades of the crowd,
whispered to himself: "And even higher!"
May we ascend to ever greater heights in our journey of life but without forgetting to first smell the coffee and the roses, appreciate a butterfly or, if need be, chop kindling for the widow's fire.