December 16, 1999
Where Korbel Meets Manischewitz
Shabbat and the new millennium
Okay, let's just get this out in the open. The marking of the second millennium since the birth of Jesus is, well, not a Jewish event. In fact, it doesn't take a theologian to figure out that it's pretty much a Christian way of chalking up the years.
Nevertheless, Jews will most likely be celebrating Y2K along with rest of the world, not as a Christian holiday, but as milestone that is part of the society in which we live.
"Jews don't write 5760 on checks," says Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. "You can't stick your head in the sand and pretend it isn't one meaningful way of marking time. It's not a meaningful way of marking time as Jews, but is a meaningful way of marking time, and that has an impact on people."
Of course, there are ways of celebrating the New Year that are in keeping with Jewish values.
"If a Jewish value is being expressed in the millennium it's the awareness of time, the sanctity of time and optimism in the future," Leder says. He contrasts January 1 with Tishri 1, the Jewish New Year.
"Jews don't celebrate time in a frivolous or careless way, they celebrate the passage time with introspection," Leder says. With New Years Eve coinciding with Shabbat this year, some shuls grabbed the chance to infuse some Jewish flavor into a secular celebration.
"I did not want Shabbat to be forgotten nor relegated to a position of secondary importance," says Rabbi Mordecai Kieffer of Temple Beth Emet in Anaheim. "There are plenty of rabbis who decry the incursion of the secular world into the sacred, so I say it is about time that the sacred begin to influence the secular."
Kieffer decided to combine Korbel toasts with the Maneschewitz kiddush, putting together a "Shabbat in Two Centuries" program for his Conservative congregation. It will begin Friday evening at 8:45 p.m. with a late Shabbat service and Torah study, followed by dinner, games and a midnight toasting of the New Year. The next morning, services will begin at 8:45, there will be a champagne brunch at 10 a.m., followed by Musaf and then a luncheon. For more information call (714) 772-4720.
The Happy Minyan, a Shlomo Carlebach-style group out of Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills, thought it would be a great week to team up with Rabbi Shlomo "Schwartzie" Schwartz of the Chai Center for special Shabbat services and dinner.
Schwartzie, a legend for attracting the unaffiliated, is always looking for a good hook, so he's letting the Y2K event replace his usual "Not-A-Christmas Party" for this time of year.
"I think it's just the right mix of 'aha!' when you're looking for what to do," he says, giving a good alternative to those who don't want to be in on the club or party scene.
Plus, he adds, "everybody has in the back of their mind, 'I'm going to go to a Jewish thing, mother will be happy.'"
Services will be at 4:30ish p.m. at the Holiday Inn Select at 1150 South Beverly Drive, north of Pico. Schwartzie will conduct Shabbat services in English, with members of the Happy Minyan leading songs. Dinner and a game of "Stump the Rabbi" will follow, till whenever. The evening is $26; call (310) 391-7995 for more information.
As for Rabbi Leder, he will celebrate Friday, Dec. 31 the only way he knows how.
"How am I going to celebrate? I am going to celebrate around the Shabbat table, with my family, and do what we do every Shabbat: Express our hopes and love for each other. That is a Jewish way of recognizing the passage of time ."