Yesterday was the second full day that I spent with the AMPGS trial team preparing for a trial that will begin in mid-December. We are literally just at the beginning stages of our trial prep. Days and days will be spent getting myself and the other members of our trial team ready, working with witnesses, drafting the pre-trial pleadings and ultimately trying the case. What is at stake? Money. Lots of money. Why so much preparation? The answer is simple. To win you have to be better prepared than your opposition.
I am proud to say that I am a preparation “freak”. Whether a professional responsibility or a personal matter, I have to be extremely well prepared. I don’t just “wing it”. I am always prepared.
Then why is it that every year as the final days of the year approach, I am concerned that my level of preparation for the most important trial of the year – my trial – which begins Rosh Hashanah eve is woefully lacking? Why is it that I allow the requirements and activities of my daily life to keep me from dedicating myself to the same intense regimen that I employ when getting ready for a trial in a court of man? It’s not that I do no preparation. It’s not that I just show up on Rosh Hashana with machzor in hand and start davening. Of course, I have studied Shaarei Teshuva, listened to shuirim and prepared my davening. But have I prepared with the same level of intensity and dedication as I do when I go into court. No. Why is that?
The last several months of saying kaddish have provided a modicum of extra preparation for the coming days. The progression of events leading to my mother’s final weeks in intensive care, her personal determination and battle with the Angel of Death to make it for one last Shabbos and one last lighting of the Shabbos candles, seeing in real time how things that were important pre-death have no meaning after death have allowed me to view through the prism of death, the everlasting importance of the spiritual and the eternal worthlessness and irrelevance of the material. Each day since that Friday night when my mother passed away as her final Shabbos candles flickered, the saying of kaddish has reminded me again and again, that my primary focus should always be, no matter what I am doing, on spiritual growth. While kaddish is recited by a mourner on behalf of the departed nowhere does this prayer mention death or the departed. Rather, it is a prayer which extolls the greatness of the Almighty. As the Rabbis explain, saying kaddish benefits the soul of the departed not because it is recited to memorialize the departed but, rather, the departed’s soul is elevated by virtue of the fact that a descendant recognizes and extolls the greatness of Hashem.
My mother a”h left me one lasting gift – kaddish – and it is helped me get ready for the day when I together with “all mankind will pass before the Almighty like members of the flock.”