Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
By Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
(This article is from the Rosh Hashanah 1999 issue of New Menorah, the quarterly journal of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. The journal is free to all members of ALEPH or The Shalom Center.)
It will be Shabbat, Parshat Shemot when we encounter Y2K. After having had a period of relative prosperity under the protection of Joseph, Pharaoh's Vizier who managed to put the Egyptians into serfdom, the dark period descended on our ancestors.
We became the serfs, worse slaves under cruel task masters, and our children were drowned and massacred.
The significance of all this does not escape us. We will find ourselves like our ancestors thinking that we are secure after a period of excessive rise of the DOW, engendered by high tech vaporware. We become aware at moments of clarity of the excessive workloads that are the lot of people who want to hold on to their jobs in a period of corporate downsizing. We realize that our children are not safe when schools become scenes of massacres.
With Y2K we enter the unknown territory of the more than 10 plagues that will be loosed on us for the lack of 2 digits. All this looms ahead beyond the already threatening catastrophes of our ecological mismanagement of our stewarding the planet.
Y2K shows us that even if there will only be minor disruptions and as some have spoken of it, a speed bump, we need to slow down. It would under much gentler circumstances still be a compassionate warning to us to take it seriously and to shift course. I need not detail the shifts for you. There are so many profound and prophetic voices addressing you on this topic and giving clear and good direction to which - if you have not silenced the in-tuition, the inner teacher you can hear your innermost agreement and longing to commit to voluntary simplicity.
But if we are not willing to hear the warnings it is likely that the fall out of that Shabbat will be more dire. Therefore treat the occurrence of the critical date on the Shabbat not as a mere coincidence. It is a most significant confluence of meaning. In our preparation we realize that all of us will need to light candles for this Shabbat, will have to prepare food and fuel. As the Talmud ( Avodah Zarah 3a)has God saying: "Only one who exerted himself in preparing for the Shabbat will eat on the Shabbat. If one has not exerted himself - wherefrom will that one eat on the Shabbat?"
The preparations will be best done during the approaching High Holy Day Season. What is so clear is that not only do we need to do our individual t'shuvah but there is now a time for a collective tshuvah that would radically alter the fabric of society, commerce and morality.
So from Shabbat Shemot we will move toward Sinai - and on the level of our own lives we need to do the same and receive the Torah that this millennial moment forces on us no less than at the classical Sinai when we were given the choice to accept to new Torah or be buried under the mountain.
It is not only that Y2K Shabbat that counts but if we could apply its lessons and live the next Shabbat also in that way we would fulfill the promise we find in the Talmud (Shabbat 108 b) If only we would keep TWO sabbaths we would immediately be redeemed.
We could invite as many as possible to spend a strict shabbat with us -- No fire at all, no connection with the media etc. Or we might take a model from the first Passover in Egypt. How wonderful it will be if we all could invite our neighbors, Jews, Gentiles, people who work with and for us to a Y2K Seder that would also have some balloons (not blood) at our doors to show that we would welcome others to drop in - and celebrate with us. We could develop a Haggadah for the Y2K Seder. We could tell the story of PROGRESS and ENSLAVEMENT.
We could have only organic and not bio-engineered food at this simple meal. We could -- let your own imagination help you design this Seder. Talk it up with your neighbors and prepare. I can imagine a Had Gadya that would detail the domino effect of the missing two digits.
I offer these thoughts as a focus for our common Tshuvah at this season and prepare in this way not only for our own 5760 but also for the general millenium.
L' Shanah Tovah um'tuqah - u-L'millennium Tov --- tikatevu v't'chatemu
Meshullam Zalman Hiyya ben Haya Gitl Schachter-Shalomi