Thursday, October 30, 2014

Being Mortal

You all know, I’m sure—or at least all Shelter Rockers do—that I spend a lot of my time in hospitals, rehab facilities, nursing homes, palliative care wards, hospices, funeral chapels, cemeteries, and houses of mourning.  In our culture, that is an unusual set of venues to spend one’s time in, let alone for an individual actively to seek out, and so much on both counts so that frequenting them in the context of professional obligation is more or less the sole explanation that is deemed reasonable or acceptable for hanging out in such places at all; people who don’t have to spend time in such places but who choose to haunt them nonetheless are generally deemed—to speak the most charitably, not the least—morose or depressive. Surely, it is generally supposed, no one normal would choose voluntarily to rub his or her nose in the ephemeral nature of human life or in its tragic brevity, let alone to do so repeatedly.

That one must occasionally brush up against death goes without saying. That much we surely all know. But in our culture, doing so is deemed a tragic necessity rather than just a natural part of what it means to be alive, to be a human being. And illness, particularly severe illness, is in exactly the same category: something normal people prefer to know nothing of, yet which all of us must occasionally deal with…until either the patient’s death or recovery relieves us of the obligation to remove our blinders and see human life as it actually is for longer than is absolutely necessary.

This is not how things always were. When I was in graduate school at JTS, I taught part-time at Hunter College in the Comparative Religions program.  It was a great gig for me, my first foray into “real” university teaching. (One day I’ll reveal how I got the job, including the ghostly role my mother played posthumously in getting me hired.) I taught an introduction to Judaism course (no surprise there), but I also taught two survey courses, one comparing various religious civilizations’ attitudes towards love and sex, and a parallel course in those same cultures’ attitudes towards death and mourning. Surprisingly, the latter was as popular as the former. (Go figure!) I loved teaching those courses, loved seeing how my students’ minds were opened up to ideas about the most basic features of human life in other eras and cultures, ideas that were often almost entirely at odds with the views regarding those same things that they had learned at home and at school over the years that preceded their enrollment in my course. I hope my students enjoyed taking those courses as much as I enjoyed teaching them! Not that it’s particularly relevant, but Joan and I became engaged one spring day during the hour I had free between those two classes! (What could be more romantic after all than meeting for a quick lunch between love and death?)

In the death and mourning course, we read books that treated death not as an unspeakable horror to be ignored for as long as possible and then begrudgingly given in to but rather as the ultimate challenge in life, books like the Ars Moriendi, the early fifteenth century book written by an anonymous Dominican monk to teach the faithful how to face death with dignity, poise, grace, and nobility born of faith. (The original book was written about 1415, but derivative works continued to be published, including in English, for centuries. And if I remember correctly, Jeremy Taylor’s The Rules and Exercises of Holy Dying, first published in 1651, was the one work we read in the original.)  Nor was this specifically a Christian phenomenon: we also read the Egyptian Book of the Dead and its Tibetan counterpart, the Bardo Thodol. (My fondness, now regretfully dormant, for Tibetan literature derives directly from teaching that book at Hunter too!) Interestingly, I knew of no Jewish works that addressed the issue of how to die well specifically, so I began to collect stories from the Talmud and various works of ancient midrashic lore that were about the deaths of famous rabbis and to translate them for my students. (Decades later, that initial collection of stories expanded into the commentary featured in the margins of Zot Neḥemati, the prayerbook Shelter Rock published several years ago for use in houses of mourning.)

Taken all together, these books and ancient texts suggested that dying well could and should be the final chapter in the book of living well…and that it should be the rule, rather than the exception, for people’s deaths to mirror the values that characterized their lives. Of course, these works predated modern medicine. The stretch of time between realizing one’s time was up and one’s time actually being up was usually brief—weeks or even days, sometimes just hours. Nor did people expect to live beyond what we today consider early middle age. And there certainly did not exist the technology to keep people suspended between life and death almost, at least in some cases, permanently.  All that is surely true…and yet the notion that it should be possible to let go gracefully and with one’s values and sense of self fully intact continues to beckon seductively, if too often impractically, from the world of good ideas that exists somewhere beyond the world of how things actually are.

And then, just this week, I read Atul Gawande’s latest book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Happens in the End. Published by Metropolitan Books earlier this month, Gawande’s book is as shocking as it is challenging…and the fact that Gawande is a surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a professor at the Harvard Medical School, the former recipient of a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, and a staff writer for the New Yorker only makes it harder to dismiss what he has to say as fantasy or pie-in-the-sky silliness. If there is one book you read about science, medicine, health, or American culture this year, I think that Being Mortal should be it. I was blown away.  And I say that as someone who has dealt with the issues he raises almost every day of my professional life and who could not be more familiar with many of the venues he describes or the issues he wishes to place on the table for national discussion.

Gawande’s central point is that, no doubt in response to the litigious nature of American society, the facilities that deal with our elderly once they are too infirm or sure of themselves to live on their own have so over-prioritized safety that the actual wellbeing of the patients entrusted to the staffs of those facilities is considered either as an afterthought…or, more often than not, is not taken into account at all.  What people need as they age and become less able to care for themselves, Gawande writes, is to feel—not safe, or at least not just to feel safe—but purposeful, to be enabled and encouraged to think of themselves as active participants in their own lives, not as the passive recipients of others’ well-meaning ministrations.  He tells at length the story of his own father’s decline, writing both as a physician and as the patient’s son, and suggesting his father’s example as the template we should strive to make basic to our conception of how the elderly infirm should be treated.

In a sense, Gawande’s book is about the practice of modern medicine itself. He doesn’t pull any punches either, asking openly what good is served by many of the standard procedures we have come to think of as not only normal and natural, but intrinsically salutary.  But mostly his is a book about the ideational platform upon which modern medicine rests. He writes, obviously as an insider. He is an insider, as much of one as anyone ever could be.  Yet he has the self-assurance to write honestly and openly about the flaws he sees in the way he himself, and by implication others in his field, act in ways that they perceive to be in their patients’ best interests but which, in fact, often do nothing of consequence at all other than purchase a slightly prolonged life with whatever sense of inner peace and wellbeing that that same patient might otherwise have known at five to midnight, then at four, then at three.

It is a chilling book to contemplate in the sober light of day. He writes anecdotally, recounting the stories of many of his own and other physicians’ patients with specific attention to what was done well and what poorly, to which interventions served the actual needs of the person in the bed and which the needs of those people’s caregivers to feel that they had left no stone unturned, no avenue of plausible therapy unexplored…but without asking the simplest and most basic questions that should have been asked of the patients themselves.  He writes with bitterness but also with kindness, with scathing self-awareness about the nature of his own profession but also with gentle acceptance of the various forces in American life that have led us to this specific point in our efforts to care for the elderly in our midst in the specific way we have come to think of as reasonable and kind. He is somehow forceful without being strident…and the concepts he places gently but firmly on the table for his readers’ consideration are precisely, at least in my own opinion, the ones that we need to address if we wish truly to think of ourselves as a nation that looks after its own well.

To read a book and to feel both elevated and challenged is a remarkable experience; it is what reading is supposed to bring to the reader but only rarely does. This is not a book for the faint-hearted or the easily upset. It is a clarion call, however, to all who think they might someday grow old or be obliged to care for someone in the last stages of life to consider and reconsider what they think they know of the aging process and its attendant infirmities.  How things can change, I have no idea. But that things do evolve as society embraces as its foundational concepts new ideas and then allows its institutions to morph into finer versions of their earlier selves in light of those ideas—that too seems incontrovertibly to be how things do work in the world.  Gawande has laid down a challenge to us all. I hope that his book inspires us all to ask ourselves how things could be better…and then to figure out how to move towards making the vision he has regarding the way things could be at the end of life into the reality we know not from books but from everyday life as we one day come to know and live it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Slowly

When I was in college, the single most important skill necessary to succeed was the ability to read quickly and to retain all or at least most of what you were reading. In graduate school, that ability—which I cultivated assiduously, as did all my classmates—was even more crucial: there were weeks when we were expected to read hundreds of pages of material and somehow digest it all.  You were allowed, obviously, to take notes. That I did, and voluminously…but, in the end, there was simply too much to master solely by jotting things down: to succeed you needed to be learning the material as you were reading, after which you could rely on your notebooks to remind you about the details.
The very last skill anyone wished to cultivate was the ability to read slowly. And, indeed, why would anyone have wanted or needed to work on reading slowly anyway? Isn’t slowly how children read when they are just learning how to sound out words? That works well in second grade, but aren’t you supposed to transcend that part of your elementary school education as you grow older and learn how to read more quickly and with ever more successful retention of the material? That surely was the way the concept was sold to us as children. And college and graduate school merely reinforced the concept.

But I’m also a slow reader, at least sometimes, and that specific skill was taught to me by Professor Elias Bickerman. Like many of my Seminary professors, Professor Bickerman was a character. But he was also a remarkable scholar possessed of a truly supple intellect and, even in the context of JTS in the 1970s, remarkable erudition. Born in 1897 in Kishenev, he was a mere lad of six when the horrific pogrom of 1903 not too subtly presaged the violence of the Shoah. As soon as he could, he left…first for Germany, where he studied and later taught at the University of Berlin until 1932, escaping to France when it was no longer tenable for a Jew to teach in Germany. He lived and taught in Paris until 1940, when it was necessary to flee again. And so he came to New York, teaching at the New School, then at Columbia, then at JTS. (He lived and taught in Los Angeles at the American Jewish University, then the University of Judaism, in the early 1950s as well.) But it was in his final professional incarnation as a professor at JTS that I knew him and studied with him. When he died in 1981, I had been his pupil for years.

Readers unfamiliar with his work should start with his entry-level book, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees (published in 1962 and still in print more than half a century later), in which the author sets the larger picture of Jewish history in the centuries before the Chanukah story we all sort of know at least something of in the larger context of world politics and the military, social, and economic realities of the day. He also wrote many other historical works, including true classics in their field, but I’d like to focus on the man in the classroom here…because it was in that specific setting that I learned the art of reading slowly.

Very slowly! My first course with Professor Bickerman was in the Septuagint, the translation of the Bible into Greek commissioned by King Ptolemy II in the first half of the third century BCE and thus the oldest surviving translation of Scripture into any language at all. It was going to be, I thought, fascinating…to see how the ancients understood the Hebrew text, to feel them struggling to find ways to convey the way the Hebrew felt to them in their own language, to see them developing, even occasionally inventing, new terms to explain ideas that had no obvious parallel in the cultural milieu in which they were working.  And so there I was the first day, my newly purchased Septuagint on the desk in front of me, ready to wade into waters I had wanted to sample for quite some time. And in walked the professor. He looked a bit disheveled, but when he spoke—he certainly didn’t bother with anything as mundane as taking attendance, asking who we were, distributing a reading list or a syllabus, or assigning any specific work to us—when he spoke, he spoke with the clear, powerful voice of someone who knows exactly what he wants to say. And his first sentence on that first day stays with me still. “I am here,” he said, “to teach you how to read slowly.”

And “slowly” was to say the very least. Our classes were ninety minutes long. The first two, comprising a full three hours, he devoted to the first word on the first page, geneisis, the Greek version of the title we all know, “Genesis.” Where did this title come from, he asked. The Torah itself has the text of Genesis in it, obviously…but it has no title at all in the scroll we read from in synagogue. The rabbis made up names for the books of the Torah the more easily to reference them. But those names have mostly fallen away and will be familiar to almost no one. The names we do recognize (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc.) are the Greek ones. But where did they come from? And what of the “other” Hebrew names, the ones in use by Hebrew speakers today? Each is the name of the opening verse in the book, apparently. But where did that practice come from? And so he began to answer his own questions, leading us through—this was done entirely without notes, incidentally—through a thousand different side topics. Greek books and Latin books. The use of titles in Aramaic literature and even in Egyptian literature. Which books first had titles and what those titles were. The question of who named Homer’s ancient epic poems. The use of names to designate Sanskrit books in ancient India, and the endlessly fascinating (who knew?) question of whether the sages of Jewish Palestine in antiquity had any contact with India or with Indian literature.

You get the idea. It took two days…and then Professor Bickerman forced himself to move on…to the first word in the actual book after the title. Or rather to the first two words: en arkhei, “in the beginning.” Is that what the Hebrew b’reishit means exactly? Why two words instead of one. In the beginning of what? Is that normal Greek or were they mimicking the Hebrew? And to what effect? This all took another class or two. By the end of the semester, we had finished, maybe, eight verses. And that was with leaving out lots of side topics on which Professor Bickerman would have liked very much to expatiate, but which we had nowhere near enough time to consider even in what our teacher would have considered cursory detail. It was a year-long course. The second semester opened up, as I recall, on the third day of creation.

Somehow Simchat Torah, our annual festival of finishing the Torah and starting immediately to read it again—this closing festival in our long holiday season always brings Professor Bickerman and his class to my mind. I read a lot, as you all know. And I read quickly, as you’ve probably intuited by now. I rarely read books a second time. And when I do it is almost always to revisit some issue that I recall only vaguely and wish to remind myself about.  For all those reasons, Simchat Torah constitutes a kind of challenge for me…the challenge laid down for me all those years ago by my teacher at JTS who only wanted to teach me how to read slowly. And so we do exactly that in synagogue. We read slowly. Over and over, the same texts, the same stories, the same laws. As it is, we probably read far too quickly…but at least we never stop revisiting passages we have already read so many times that we almost know them by heart. There’s always something, always some ore hidden beneath the surface we have yet even to notice, let alone successfully to mine. Reading quickly is good for graduate students, I suppose. But reading slowly is the thing, the art that leads to the true pleasure of the text.

When Professor Bickerman died in 1981, I was working as the assistant to the librarian at JTS and it fell to the librarian, in those days Professor Menachem Schmelzer, and to me to visit Professor Bickerman’s home to get an initial sense of how many books the JTS library was about to acquire according to the terms of his will.  We did our work quickly, as I recall, just counting shelves and estimating the number of volumes on each. But as I wandered around in his space and looked at the books that were his lifelong companions, I could almost hear his voice challenging me to see this huge mass of printed books before my eyes, but not to lose track of the lesson he himself taught me: that reading quickly is useful, but reading slowly is sublime.

And that is what I would like to tell you as we approach Simchat Torah. It isn’t dull or uninteresting to hear the same text again. It is crucial—not because you may not recall this or that detail in the book, but because you haven’t ever heard it before at this specific moment in your life, at this particular point in your own intellectual and spiritual development. You’ve read it before, to be sure. But too quickly—trust me on this—and with too great an emphasis on completing the task at hand. Perhaps this year we should all focus on the far more difficult task of reading slowly…and finding in the slow, considered contemplation of Scripture a highway towards communion with the living God, whose divine spirit inheres in each sacred word of our holy Torah. Finding that possible is the challenge Simchat Torah—as we begin to read again—lays at our feet. Will we respond successfully and productively? That remains to be seen!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sukkot 5775

Is there something perverse, or at least bizarre, about celebrating the beginning of a new year precisely when the physical world is winding down, as its season of burgeoning growth ends and the earth itself begins its slow but inexorable descent through decay and decline into its annual experience of frozen, lifeless—or at least apparently lifeless—sleep?  A little bit, there is!

You’ve surely noticed the changes afoot in the world just lately, in our world. A flash of yellow or even red leaves here and there…not the full monty of autumnal color just quite yet, but the intimation of that riot of color that seems so alive and yet which, as any sober botanist will tell you, is actually a sign of decay and deterioration: healthy, growing leaves are green, not red!  A chill in the air early in the morning when you head out to retrieve the paper from the driveway or to put the garbage cans on the curb before the appointed pick-up hour.  (I found myself reaching for a jacket the other day without even thinking about it much as I headed out to minyan in the morning. And I was glad I did!) The neighborhood cats seem to be gearing up for the winter too, although even I am not entirely sure what I mean by that—they just seem to be out and about more obviously at dusk, perhaps gathering up acorns  for the cold winter months to come. (Do cats eat acorns? If I were a cat, I suppose I’d know.) I’ve seen a few more raccoons wandering around the neighborhood too just recently. The squirrels look a bit more plump than usual too, including the one with the huge tail who likes to sit on our deck and watch me work there in the late afternoon.

And so is born the paradox of our temperate climate: the physical world in these tepid latitudes is never more beautiful or more soul-stirring than when it is on the verge of its annual demise. 

Why do I love it so? And I do love it. In fact, I’ve always loved the fall colors, always felt myself stirred in a deep, visceral way by the yellow and reds of autumn. I like the way the world turns green in springtime and, like everybody, I like the warm summer weather. (For some reason, I particularly like swimming in the ocean. And that is definitely something that I only do when the weather is at its warmest.) But there is something in the fall…in the smell of the leaves as they fall to the ground, in the brightness of their colors, of the strange blueness of the sky particularly when the air is cold and the sunlight bright and yellow…there is something in all of that that moves my soul and makes me feel part of the natural world in a way that the other seasons suggest a bit but fail actually to stimulate in any truly meaningful way.

Sukkot is part of that set of ideas as well. It is, by all accounts, an odd holiday. We build sukkot that thin the boundary we generally wish to be thick and firm between indoors and outdoors, between the civilized world symbolized by our climate-controlled, electronically secure, comfortably upholstered homes and the natural world that exists uncontrolled by ourselves beyond the boundaries of our property.  And then, having thinned the boundary, we proceed to ignore it as we transgress (to use the word literally for once) in both directions: we bring our china and our stemware out into the natural world, into the flimsy hut that can barely protect itself, let alone ourselves and the treasures we casually deposit within its burlap walls…and we take the lulav and bind willow and myrtle twigs to it, then clasp the whole bundle to the etrog and hold it as we sing the Hallel in praise of the God Who made the world and its bounty, but we do so specifically not outdoors in the context of all that bounty but indoors…in our wholly indoor sanctuaries where, unlike in the sukkah,  we do not feel ourselves half-inside and half-outside at all, but fully and comfortably indoors.

It’s an outside/inside sort of festival the Jews celebrate as the world surrenders to putrefaction in a blaze of glory that itself symbolizes the degree to which life itself can only truly be loved by those who understand its brevity, its ephemeral evanescence, its essential transitoriness.  And so what we are left with as we contemplate our festival in the context of its season is the notion that, truly, nothing is ever as it seems. The security of inside and the insecurity of outside meet and coalesce in the even more basic truth that true security in the world can only come from within, from faith, from confidence born of the knowledge that there is a God in heaven Who watches over the world and Whose essential nature constitutes its moral core.  The beauty of the autumn leaves meets the underlying knowledge that what that beauty really signals is the beginning of the end, the death of life, the onset of the harshest season of the year…and those two notions somehow yield—or should yield—the realization that, far more than spring is birth and winter death, the cycle is the thing…and the notion that the world cycles through its seasons in an endless progression of birth and death, of growth and decline, of gorgeousness and bareness, has at its heart a deep truth that the wise will willingly embrace: that creation itself is meant neither to terrify nor to embolden, but to prompt feelings of deep gratitude and beholdenness to the Creator, author of the earth’s bounty and its cycles of life and death.

And so, with those confused, not fully congruent ideas embraced and proclaimed as simple truths (the hallmark of the successful preacher being precisely that ability to make incongruous ideas sound as though they fit together so well that only a fool would feel the need to choose one over the other), I wish you all a satisfying, meaningful, and spiritually transformational Sukkot this year. At Shelter Rock, we’re having about 350 to dinner in our beautiful and elegantly decorated giant sukkah. Tomorrow, lunch will be served serially (not cereally, or at least mostly not) in a succession of neighborhood sukkot including Joan’s and my own. Throughout the festival, we will be eating and drinking in these flimsy backyard huts that will paradoxically make us feel more, not less, secure that the world is a place of majesty and beauty, and that creation itself—and particularly in its lush gorgeousness—is the only adequate mirror in which mortals can catch even a fleeting glimpse of their Creator.  And in that thought rests the beauty and the profundity of one of the great festivals the Torah offers us as respites from our workaday lives. I wish you all a chag sameiach and, one last time, a shanah tovah for you and your families.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Yom Kippur 5775

As we approach our holiest day of the year, I feel myself possessed by mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I find the whole Yom Kippur experience cathartic and cleansing, and always deeply satisfying.  Yom Kippur is, after all, our national festival of being taken seriously, of being told carefully and thoughtfully to self-scrutinize even to the point of personal discomfort. And not just to consider the way we conduct ourselves in places that obviously matter like home or the workplace but even the way we behave in the market or at the gym, and further to consider the language we use when we are boiling over with irritation at the leisurely way the person at the front of a very long line that we are standing at the end of is conducting his or her business, the way we conduct ourselves when we are frustrated driving behind someone who seems to be taking some perverse pleasure in driving ten miles an hour under the speed limit, the self-control we do (or don’t) exert when we encounter those perky, intensely irritating phony voice-persons (or whatever you’d call them—those gratingly upbeat non-people who exist solely as disembodied voices who want to guide you through an automated system that doesn’t really do anything other than stand between you and the possibility of speaking to any actual human being when you phone the bank or some service provider that seems intent on providing no service at all, or at least not to you personally), or when we find ourselves enraged at people, usually a spouse, parent, or child, whose sole sin was not to be able to read our minds and magically know something we haven’t actually ever told them.

Am I speaking too personally? I’m sure I am! (I really do hate those voice-people things and their relentless—and relentlessly cheery—certainty that they can help you if you would only let them.)  So there’s that aspect of Yom Kippur—the celebration of the importance of the individual and the development of the foundational idea that deeds count, that casual gestures count, that inappropriate glances count, that words count, that even words spoken in haste and regretted instantly count. Or, to say the same thing differently, that we count not merely as members of humankind or even as the men and women of the House of Israel, but as individuals stamped with the divine image who have the infinite capacity to do good in the world…or to be personally responsible for the degeneration of society and the degradation of the moral foundation upon which society should and could rest.

From all that comes deep satisfaction: what could be more fulfilling than being told that it really is all about us, that we really do matter, that the history books may well be filled with stories about the feats of the famous, but when it comes down to God judging the world, the judged will mostly not be Olympic athletes or famous actors or politicians, but regular people like ourselves endowed with the capacity to do good merely by walking the earth as the living exemplars of the virtues the Torah considers fundamental and paradigmatic: justice, equity, generosity, kindness, societal responsibility, and the pursuit of peace.

But from all that also comes a deep, chilling sense of ill ease…and that too is part of what Yom Kippur means to me. Like all of you, I do not like being judged. At all, really, and least of all by an all-knowing Judge before Whom lying is not actually possible. I want to be important (doesn’t everybody?), but I also don’t want to be, don’t want to feel responsible for my own actions, let alone for the welfare of the world. When you come down to it (and for all I like feeling crucial to the fate of humankind), I also like feeling that nothing I do matters all that much, that the pursuit of justice is the job of the Department of Justice, that the mandate to guarantee that even the poorest among us have clean water to drink, nourishing food to eat, adequate medical care, and affordable housing is the job of the various government agencies that exist to deal with those issues as they relate to those people, and which I personally fund, although obviously not entirely, with my personal tax dollars anyway. The last thing most of us, myself most definitely included, want is to be made to feel responsible for the world! Most of us, myself also most definitely included, aren’t even that wild about feeling responsible for ourselves!

And so, as I said above, I approach this sacred day with mixed feelings. I relish the importance that our tradition attributes to me personally and I take pride and even pleasure in the sense that my actions matter not just in local terms but in cosmic ones. But I am equally sure that the very last thing I want is the burden of the universe to be set on my tired shoulders when I can barely keep up with my responsibilities to my family, to our congregation, and to our community! And that is the set of confused emotions I bring to the day.

This is not new for this year, but rather the way I tend always to approach the holiday. I suppose the real question is whether or not I have the courage to look deeply within, to identify my own flaws and errors of judgment, to deal productively and creatively with them…and then, cleansed of my own faults and shortcomings, to feel ready to take my place in the big world out there, the one that is only spinning at all because I personally make it spin, the one that is a place of justice and generosity because of what I personally do with the days of my life, the one in which the needy of the world are looked after because I personally look after them. There is both pleasure and anxiety in that kind of taking yourself seriously. Like all of you, I’m sure, I like it and don’t like it. I anticipate it and dread it, await it eagerly and hope against hope that the day will somehow come and go without me looking up from my Machzor long enough to catch an unwanted glimpse of myself in the mirror that is my personal page in the great Book of Life, that celestial tome that was written up on Rosh Hashanah and will be sealed b’yom tzom kippur, on the great Day of Atonement, that embodies our fondest hopes about the world and about ourselves…and also our deepest fears about the world and about ourselves. Will I be able to set my anxieties aside long enough to feel cleansed and happy when we go home after Neilah? Will you? We shall see soon enough!

I wish you all an easy fast and a g’mar ḥatimah tovah. May we all be inscribed for a happy and healthy year in the great Book of Life.