There are many inspirational parts of the Rosh Hashanah services, and different people find meaning in different things.
This year my inspiration came in the form of a young thirteen-year-old boy. But let’s back up a bit…
Attendance at services everywhere on the second day of Rosh Hashanah is often much lower than the first day. In the past, we’ve struggled to even get a minyan, so this year I asked the principal of the Chabad school in Chicago—where our kids attend (about an hour away)—if there were any “out of town” post-bar mitzvah boys that would be interested in joining us for Rosh Hashanah.
Turns out there are quite a few, kids whose parents are Chabad emissaries in communities around the world. They live with local families during the year so that they can attend school, and two of these young men, both just past their bar mitzvahs, were indeed willing to spending the holiday with us.
Having them with us gave me some peace of mind, knowing that our chance of having a minyan for all the prayers was now much greater. But then it got even better, as one of the boys turned out to be a Kohen.
A highlight of the service is the traditional Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, and despite our two regular Kohens being away for the holiday, we would not have to miss it.
Because this young man was our only Kohen, when it came time for him deliver the special blessing, he got up at the front of the synagogue covered himself in a tallit and chanted the sweet melody of Birkat Kohanim before the entire congregation.
So many thoughts were going through my mind at the time, but it wasn’t until later that the specialness of that moment dawned on me. A boy, whose family is hundreds of miles away, came to Indiana to ensure that we had a minyan; and to top it off, he delivered the most beautiful blessing. He did not complain that he wasn’t with his family for the holiday, and he most certainly did not shy away from getting up and blessing everyone.
We benefited from his selflessness, something he no doubt picked up from his parents, committed Chabad emissaries in their own community. The Lubavitcher Rebbe instilled in his followers a unique love for fellow Jews, and as we impart this to our children, we are guaranteed that future generations of our people will be in good hands.
(This article originally appeared in The Times of Israel.)