For the days when you feel thin-skinned: Listen
A quick dip before the holiday comes

Anticipating what's next

My fingers smell of etrog.

It's the day before Yom Kippur. I'm neck-deep in preparations for the holiday: I meet with my cantorial soloist to talk through the services, print a few last-minute materials, add names to the list of those for whom we pray for healing, punch holes in the guided meditation I wrote for the Avodah service (in which we remember the sacrifices of old on this day) and file it in my prayerbook binder.

And then the long narrow boxes materialize at the synagogue. Three sets of Four Species -- each containing a citron fruit, a willow branch, a myrtle branch, and a palm -- which we will wave during Sukkot. It's a wonderful reminder that, as big a deal as Yom Kippur is (both spiritually and professionally), it's not the end of anything: just another step in the continuing journey of the wheel of the year.

As I open the boxes, I feel like a little kid getting a birthday gift. Something beautiful has traveled a long way to reach me just in time. We haven't even entered into Yom Kippur yet, and I'm already remembering what comes next: the week of trying to daven and eat in the flimsy wee house which hints at the kind of booth in which my spiritual ancestors might once have dwelled while bringing in their harvest, which reminds me to cherish the beauty of what's open to the air and the rain.

We're not there yet. Right now it's time to intensify and complete my preparations for Yom Kippur. Tomorrow it will be time to dive headlong into the immersive experience of Yom Kippur, of Shabbat, of the day when tradition tells us God is most near to us, when the channels between us and God are clearest and most open. After Yom Kippur comes Sunday: a day for football, for building our sukkot, for winding down. But it's on the way.

As I've been writing this post, the scent of etrog has faded. I miss it already. I might have to walk across the room, open up one of the little padded etrog boxes, and breathe it in one more time.