I don't know how the universe knows. It was a leap year this year, and that should have fooled the universe, but nope, the universe knows.
It always knows that Rosh HaShanah is coming, and it holds the disasters for that week.
I, like a fool, write my Rosh HaShanah derashot three weeks in advance, to clear the table for work on Shabbat Shuvah, Yom Kippur and Succot. Then, right before Rosh HaShanah, the world turns upside down and I need to change my topic.
In 2001 it was the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center.
In 2002, if I remember correctly, the market tanked that week.
In 2005, a very close friend and key person in our community was killed in a car accident.
Other things in other years, I forget the specifics at the moment.
And this year, the banks collapse and the President gets on the television to let anyone who isn't already panicking know that it's now time to panic.
I don't mean to whine about speechwriting while the world burns, really. I'm certainly not trivializing the disasters I just mentioned.
I'm just feeling sorry for myself as I sit here on Thursday afternoon and try to write a derashah for Shabbos and another one for Rosh HaShanah, trying to say something new and meaningful to people who are scared that their retirement savings may disappear, that their investments for their children's college education are turning into so much toilet paper, that their jobs may be downsized or outsourced as companies are stressed beyond their limits.
What can you say that isn't:
infantile (market, shmarket, let's worry about teshuvah);
irrelevant (righteous people trust in HaShem);
meaningless (Shabbos 151b says poverty is cyclical);
or just plain silly (this is a punishment for that sin)?
Always, always, the week before Rosh HaShanah.
I know some don't like this phrase, but it's a gemara (Megilah 31b) so I'm justified: תכלה שנה וקללותיה, May the year and its curses come to an end.
תחל שנה וברכותיה, may the new year and its blessings begin.