The names that come to mind for me are Michael Jordan and Serena Williams. Not just in the pantheon of their respective sports for their overall skill but for how they performed in crunch time. In the waning minutes of a game or match, you always knew Serena and Michael were going to show up and perform to their highest capabilities. It’s what we refer to as being clutch.
It’s hard to know predict clutch-ness, but we all know it when we see it. Maybe if we’re lucky, we’ve even felt it. Well, my friends, I am here to tell you that we are in the final moments of 5782 and if you’re thinking about performing in the clutch, now is the time.
This last month of Elul is one that is built upon the notion of fully preparing ourselves for the coming new year. We throw around terms like heshbon ha’nefesh, soul searching and tshuvah, the return to the best versions of ourselves. But how many of us really fulfill those things to the degree that we’d like? I, for one, have not. So now we find ourselves with the clock ticking toward zero. Rosh Hashanah is coming in 48 hours.
If you haven’t yet felt in the game, I offer the following teaching to activate yourself. Rabbi Sholom Noach Berezovsky, the most recent Slonimer Rebbe in his work Netivot Sholom discusses how one should fully prepare during Elul. He likens this journey to a mountain climber that has to battle treacherous conditions in order to reach the peak.
Most fail. The ones that succeed do so because of their mental fortitude that he breaks down in the following way:
1. The steadfast resolution that what will be will be, and they will overcome and ascend, up to and including being ready to even sacrifice themselves for the sake of this goal.
2) The certainty and strong belief that in the end if they attempt and eventually overcome that there will be a final victory, and that it is within their grasp. But, as long as in their heart they waver regarding whether or not they will succeed, they will not be able to overcome the physical task at hand.
In other words, you have to understand that whatever is coming your way is out of your control. When it comes though, you have to believe in yourself and put the best effort forward that you can. Just one thought that you don’t have it in you can topple the whole thing.
Interestingly, in a study done at the Sports Psychology lab at Cal State Northridge, two key components dictated whether an athlete was going to be clutch: confidence and being in control. This feels connected to the Netivot Sholom’s teaching. You may not be able to control the conditions in which you’ve been put, but you can control your response to them. One of the ways you can do that is a belief in yourself. In other words, have confidence that you can do it.
We are that mountain climber, friends. We have battled the snow and the wind to get to this moment. We have a little bit left to get there. I invite you to spend the next 48 hours digging deeply in your heart and soul. Don’t think that just because time is running out, it’s not worth the effort; don’t let the waning moments make you feel like you can’t do it. As MJ and Serena and many others have shown us before, it’s that last effort in the clutch that has a true lasting impact on our legacies.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah
May this new year bring sweetness, joy, adventure, and overflowing blessings
Thank you for your thoughtful commentary - I read your piece every week. Shana Tova to you
and Lauren. A happy and healthy new year!