I write this message on September 9 (9-9-99) as everyone awaits the potential doom-and-gloom scenario of this dry run for the end of the year. It is shortly before Yom Kippur and so my thoughts, in the short term, have turned 2YK. There is, of course, an obvious pun, but perhaps not-so-obvious a connection.
It is easy to glean from the liturgy of Yom Kippur that disaster looms around every corner. Our elegant depiction of the power of the day, Un’taneh tokef, includes the refrain "who shall live and who shall die." After a passing acknowledgment of the blessings of life, it continues with a litany of ways people can expect to die. Yet we know that the vast majority of us will emerge to live another year and to recite the formula of warning again. Nevertheless, from the first of Elul to the last sounding of the shofar, we prepare ourselves for unlikely eventualities.
Fortunately, our tradition recognizes the limits of preparation. We may not fast for more than the required time; we may not remove ourselves from the material world for fear of sin; we may not view ourselves as wicked people. Though we are urged to repent one day before we die (and therefore each day, since we never know when death will arrive), our prayers and our engagement with the world all presume the sun will come up in the morning for all of us and for each of us.
We should approach Y2K as we approach YK. Reasonable precautions are wise, but they would be wise if we were entering 1962 or 2038. Unreasonable precautions – withdrawing large sums of cash, hoarding food, and, God forbid, arming yourself with firearms – put yourself and your family in danger and have a destabilizing influence on society around you. Y2K is problem of completely human origin; the results of hysteria and extremism in response to it would create more human-generated problems.
Most agencies and utilities believe we are well-prepared for this transition. But the problems which face some populations in our community will exist independent of Y2K. So I make this proposal. Over the next month or two, please purchase a large Polarfleece blanket, a couple of thick (unscented) candles, a gallon of water and maybe a box of dry consumables (crackers or cookies). Store them away until mid-December. After Sisterhood's white elephant sale, we will ask you to bring them to the synagogue, where we will keep them in case our building is used for temporary shelter in the unlikely event of a disruption. After January 1, we will donate the collected materials to A.L.I.V.E. for distribution to the families in our community who do without warm blankets and emergency provisions all year ‘round.
In this way, having been inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life, we can make sure that similar data is permanently saved on this winter’s hard drive.
The Fall Holidays at Agudas Achim
If you have any doubt as to the importance of our synagogue in the lives of its members, you have only to be at Agudas Achim during the month of Tishri. Tishri, the fall month in which the majority of the Jewish holidays take place, fills our synagogue with a sense of awe, with worship and with hundreds of people!
During Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur our lobby was filled with people joyfully embracing and wishing one another a heartfelt "Shana Tovah". Our sanctuary was filled with voices raised joyfully in song and solemnly in prayer. And over one hundred members gathered for Tashlikh on the afternoon of the second day of Rosh Hashana! No doubt the sound of our many shofarot still echoes throughout the neighborhood!
As Sukkot, the third of the fall holidays, approaches, we have another opportunity to gather together to worship at the synagogue and to once again fill the neighborhood with our presence and enthusiasm. Our annual Sukkah walk on the second day of Sukkot, after services, (Sunday, September 26) will expand the borders of our synagogue as we visit the many sukkot within walking distance of Agudas Achim. Do not miss this opportunity to share Sukkot with friends and extended family. Join in the mitzvah of eating in the sukkah as we, following in the footsteps of our ancestors "wander through the ‘desert’ together".
Shana Tovah to each of you. May your year be filled with health and happiness.