Perhaps no one has put it better than Bill Booth, famous skydiver, who coined Booth's Rule Number 2: 'The safer skydiving becomes, the more chances skydivers will take, in order to keep the fatality rate constant.'
Resilience by Andrew Zolli
I was shocked to find out that Booth’s Rule #2 also applied in its own way to driving: The safer cars have become with seat belts and air bags, the more recklessly we are likely to drive, keeping the motor vehicle casualty rate relatively constant.
It got me thinking about davvening during the 10 days of Repentance. For those who pray regularly, especially the standing benedictions that are recited thrice daily, many of the blessings are committed to memory, especially the first and last three which are shared with those we recite on Sabbaths and Festivals. Those of us who close our eyes to davven tend to do so quickly and sometimes ‘recklessly’.
From Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur there are a set of additions to the first two and last two blessings, insertions that ask God to remember us, to inscribe us for a good year in the Book of Life.
Not all rabbinic authorities approved of these insertions. Many objected to their inclusion in the liturgy at all. The substitution at the end of the third blessing where we say Holy King rather than Holy God was prescribed and generally accepted as a rule of the liturgical road. But not the four ‘interruptions’ in the first and last two benedictions. Those were controversial.
So why did the pro-insertion rabbinic authorities prevail?
Many years ago I was in Israel for the High Holidays and went for Selichot to a Sephardic shul. The rabbi there spoke about our relationship with God during this period of time. For most of the year, God is our ever-loving parent but during these Days of Awe, God is like a good friend to whom we go to for a reality check, an objective sense of how we’re doing in a world stripped of all the justifications we accumulate to make everything we do sound okay.
As I ride through the amidah confidently, eyes closed, during this time of year, I’m yanked out of my meditative reverie with those unexpected insertions, liturgical stop signs (or at least yield signs) to be reminded that not all is well in the state of my soul.
By creating systems and laws for ensuring our good behavior are we intentionally creating more risky moral highways to keep the sin-rate constant?
It’s a question only we can answer.
Where is written?
It’s written in thee.
Have an easy fast.
G’mar chatimah Tovah.