In Yeshiva, the first night of Rosh Hashana was exhausting.
The davening was beautiful. The Yomim Noraim tune is seared into the brain, and gets excited when the Chazan begins.
I’m not talking about the davening. I’m talking about what happens when Maariv is over. A regular Friday night post-Maariv has a quick “Gut Shabbos” “Gut Shabbos” “Gut Shabbos”
On the first night of Rosh Hashana, you’ve got this pearl, that has many people wishing they could talk to that lady who lives out on the sea shore and sells sea shells.
לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם
For the adventurous bochur, or Rebbe, you can add all the toppings, namely,
לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום
For a grand total of
לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום
to be said, and then greeting returned, to and from every single person. Then there is the line of talmidim waiting to greet and be greeted by each of the Rebbeim, and the Rosh Yeshiva, with the phrase, partial or full, depending on the minhag.
Kiddush in the Yeshiva’s dining room started well over an hour after the end of Maariv for this reason.
This is bringing back fond memories. And not only because people tend to remember even bad things with that fondness for nostalgia. It’s fond because it seems that when people, either friends or acquaintances or rebbeim would issue their blessings to you for the coming year, it all sounded sincere to me. A perfunctory “Gut Shabbos” can go by as quickly as “hi”. But this phrase, either the premium version, or even the shorter one, does not roll off the tongue. So it comes across as sincerely wished. This is either because it is meant, given the time of year; or, it is so long that it has to be said more slowly, and therefore sounds as if it’s sincere even if it’s not. I’ll take it either way. Because blessing someone with all those words does something to the blessor and the blessee.
The Gemara in Brochos (7a) tells of the Cohen Godol Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha, who was asked by God Himself one Yom Kippur, for a bracha. The gemara’s takeaway from the story is that the blessing of a commoner should not be seen as insignificant, given that even the High Priest himself, on Yom Kippur itself, is a commoner in relation to God.
And we got these brochos in droves, on Rosh Hashana night. I try to share some of that once a year as well.
Now I only have to take my Gut Shabbos’es and Gut Yom-Tov’s as seriously!