Elul High Holy Day preparation, this time around, is a bit different for me than in the past. Although I'm the least seasoned leader of the bunch, it's still the sixth year I've led Shaharit (amazing)—none of us need very many rehearsals. One of the service locations is different than last year—but we sang there a long time ago, me from the first row of the balcony in the choir as we hovered above the rabbis on the stage directly below. As Kohelet observed, there's nothing new under the sun. My first rehearsal is the week before Rosh Hashanah. Until then, unlike those summers when I began humming Uvekhen in July, getting ready is up to me and me alone.
This is the way it should be. I think I've relied too much on circumstance to get in an Elul frame of mind; motivation should come from within. And this year, lacking preamble, it's either be ready or be shocked by the sudden arrival of the holiday, and miss the whole point. So I finally got my act together and bought the 60 Days book, by the same wonderful rabbi who wrote the daily Omer counting manual that helped me feel like a slightly different person at the end of those 49 days for the first time ever this year. 60 Days suggests little bits of kavannah, spiritual intention, and exercises and ideas for action for each day of this month and the event-filled one to follow—not a lot of work, but just enough to get a person thinking. (Already I feel guilty, not a bad start.) I may be singing the same melody as in 5768, but want to make sure it's also a shir hadasha, a new song, as befits the birthday of the world.