Why Exactly Am I Here on Rosh Hashana?
by Rabbi Shimon Posner
Why am I here, at Services, on Rosh Hashanah? To feel small.
But why feel small when being big and strong feels better? Because when we are big and strong, when we sense our greatness and our strength, then something greater and stronger can, and will, knock us down. So we are not really that big at all; we are actually Lilliputians hoping against hope that the Jolly Green Giant is nowhere to be found.
When we feel small – but we know that we are here even though we are small – then we realize that we, as we are, are important, crucial even — only in ways that we don’t even know how. So now we need to discover our greatness, our importance, even though we are small. Actually, not “even though” we are small, but “precisely because” we are small.
Put differently, we recognize something, something so beyond big that calling it big is belittling, something that is beyond any description. And that something determined that we, in our smallness, are crucial. Because when we recognize that we are small, yet crucial because so sayeth Something-beyond-recognition, then we have changed the way we see ourselves and the way we see the environment around us. We have changed the attitude towards everything so that this Something is the Only thing that can breathe meaning into anything.
Chassidut, aka Jewish mysticism, aka trading in your anxiety for sanity, delves into the psychology of everything and speaks in metaphor, even when the metaphor is far, far removed from our perception. This celebration of “us small/Something big” is called coronation of the king.
King Charles III, “happy & glorious, long to reign over (them)”, might not quite evoke the divine. Maybe because his monarchy is of the constitutional variety. Maybe because unmitigated media exposure leaves no room for mystery and majesty. Maybe because, well, corporeal majesty just doesn’t cut it when trying to reach beyond the stars.
Coronation depends on people, ordinary people who accept the monarch and identify as his subjects. Without subjects, no one, not even the greatest megalomaniac can declare himself king. Only the subjects can do that. (A tyrant imposes his dominance with force, (s)he’s actually a bully in a robe, not to be confused with the metaphor of a majestic king.
Coronation is, in a nutshell, the meaning of Rosh Hashanah – and why we are here. Coronation, Rosh Hashanah, is when we recognize the Great Something Beyond which infuses us within, bridging the multiverse beyond the stars to being thoroughly dependent on us, on our attitude, not, as noted, even though we are small, but precisely because we recognize how small we are.
Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father Our King. We proclaim His sovereignty which in turn highlights our purpose. Why? Because He loves us. As a father loves His only child.
And with this attitude adjustment, moving away from measuring our size, (we’re hopelessly small, as you noticed) towards recognizing that the majestic Greatness beyond all description cares deeply about us, this begins Rosh Hashanah. And this Jewish New Year is itself the first station in a month satiated with opportunities, blessings and challenges that we should become a mensch. May we be written and sealed for Good.