As we get ourselves ready for the New Year and what will hopefully be a beautiful and uplifting Rosh Hashana for all of us, I wanted to share with you a short idea that I intend to share with the boys over the Chag. The gemara (Rosh Hashana 18a) describes that on Rosh Hashana we all stand before Hashem as בני מרון. The gemara cites three alternative interpretations as to what this analogy of בני מרון means. The first view is that we stand before Hashem as hikers travelling single file through a very narrow mountain pass. The second view is that we stand as individual soldiers passing one by one before the general as he makes his final inspection before the troops go out to war. Finally, the third interpretation is that we stand as sheep before the shepherd passing in single file as he counts each one to make sure his flock is accounted for and intact. Each of these imageries certainly projects a unique and specific meaning as to how we stand in judgment in front of Hashem on Rosh Hashana. But there is also a common denominator. In each instance there is a member of a group or class (the hikers, the soldiers and the flock of sheep) who, while normally part of a larger class, at this moment stand as individuals before Hashem. So often we take solace in being part of a larger group hoping that the group dynamics can camouflage and mask our personal flaws. On Rosh Hashana, we are told that is not how things work. While we may be part of a larger group, on this day we are looked at and judged as individuals. It is a solitary and lonely judgment.
As I reflect on this idea, I also think about the mission of our Yeshiva. All too often the prime influence on our youth is the pressure and influences of peers, sometimes positive, and frequently negative. There is a pack mentality that drives the wants, desires and yearnings of our impressionable youngsters. Everyone seems to be running after “likes” on their Instagram posts, and chasing more and more “followers” on their “X” (formerly Twitter ) accounts. Our worth is all too often defined by the acceptance and adulation of others. We define themselves by group and peer associations. This is true when it comes to the religious groups that we align ourselves with, and it is also true of the foreign influences that permeate so many aspects of our lives.
We have many missions in Yeshiva but certainly one of them is to help the talmidim realize their inherent worth and value. To be genuine, authentic, and real is no small thing – and often a more profound spirituality and inspired relationship with Hashem is a direct out-growth of tapping into the reservoirs of authenticity that we have inside of us. Through our diverse in-depth learning, ruach, and perhaps most important, personal connections, we work tirelessly to help the boys connect – first and foremost to their true selves, and from there to the בורא עולם. As we hear the blasts of the שופר, we stand before Hashem as בני מרון - alone with our thoughts, with our dreams, with our most authentic yearnings and aspirations. It is indeed a very lonely and profound judgment, but it is an opportunity like no other – to allow the piercing blasts of the שופר to help us internally open the deepest recesses of our hearts, and at the same time to transport us closer to an authentic and palpable relationship with the רבונו של עולם.
On behalf of myself, the Rebbeim and the entire Yeshiva, I wanted to wish everyone a שנה טובה ומתוקה – a year of health, happiness and prosperity, and perhaps more important than anything else, a year of tremendous nachat from our children where all of our תפילות and aspirations for them are realized.
Rav Shimon Isaacson