MAKING THE WORLD LIVEABLE
One of the great problems in the instant information and communication age is writing a message for ‘print’. It’s now mid-August but what I write today will appear as a High Holiday message in mid-September. So by then something that is ‘current’ by the time you read it – may not only be outdated –but it might be wrong. It is a little like the election of Truman over Dewey-Newspapers and people went to bed believing Dewey won, and all woke up to discover Truman won the Presidency. Or it would be like writing about the Brooklyn Dodger march towards a win of the National League pennant in August of 1951 just before their historic collapse culminating in Bobby Thompson’s ‘shot heard round the world’ that resulted in a NY Giants win – and three weeks later the printed version comes out upside down. So the Rabbinic tendency is to focus on something eternal (meaning that the thought will last at least three weeks). We have a prayer in the HH prayer book that has the same issue. The prayer is called ’Un ‘taneh Tokef’.
The ‘Un’taneh Tokef’ issue is who shall be written in the book of life-for another year-and then it graphically goes through the ways a person can pass away-such as by fire, water and disease. It also describes the balance of life by reminding us that there will be births as well as deaths.
Judaism does not have a concept of ‘predestination’, so it is not certain once a person does not make it into the book of life that they will perish during the coming year. This prayer reminds us that we do not have to travel down a path of mistakes, but we can return to the right path through ‘Teshuvah’ –correcting our behavior through doing good deeds, helping the jobless, the ill, those recovering from illness, the addicted and recovering from addiction and the widowed-helping those people who have been broadsided by the many problems of our society. We should live our lives as though we did not make it into the Book of Life, and strive through good deeds to be worthy of being in the Book of life, and then it might come true.
A Cantor sings this prayer from his/her heart and soul, and it is my hope as you and I pray then ‘Teshuvah’ and redemption will win out. My additional hope is that in the coming year, we will experience a year of joyous events which will remind us of how good it is for we Jews to pray together and live together in a meaningful community congregation dedicated toward making ourselves and the world a better place for all.
L’Shanah Tovah-Happy New year to you all in Etz Chaim, Ramona.
Rabbi Ben Leinow,