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Coronating the King: 4 Ways to Prepare for Rosh Hashanah

September 21, 2022 | by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

We may not be invited to King Charles coronation, but we’re all eagerly wanted at a more prestigious coronation – the installation of the ultimate King on Rosh Hashanah.

Immediately upon his mother’s passing, Prince Charles became King of England and the wheels of tradition were set in motion for his coronation ceremony, although it won’t take place for several months. The death of Queen Elizabeth and the transition of power has gripped not only citizens of the United Kingdom, but people around the world.

What is so intriguing and captivating about the royal family that draws such enormous attention, focus, and even obsession?

Dr. Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist who specializes in celebrity and fame, suggests that the answer is the royal family's strict adherence to procedure and tradition. She explained: “Life by its very nature is tumultuous and dislocated... [T]he royal family represents order, discipline, stability and a sort of calmness in communication with one another that actually physiologically settles a person.”

Dr. Rockwell believes the royal family represents an escape from an unsettling world: "So in the same way, I think that when an adult is feeling a sense of inner chaos, it's comforting, even neurologically speaking, to be able to observe something of structure," she said.  "The universe is profoundly chaotic so whenever we can anchor ourselves into a sense of order and safety, really, we tend to relax. And that generates the reward center of the brain."

While none of us will be invited to King Charles coronation, all of us are not only invited, but eagerly wanted, at a greater, more prestigious coronation. The installation of the ultimate King, the King of Kings, will take place in just a few days on Rosh Hashanah.

We associate Rosh Hashanah with judgment, but the Torah itself never mentions this theme. Rosh Hashanah corresponds with the creation—not of the world, the first day of creation, but with the birth of man, the sixth day. As the Machzor says, “Zeh hayom techilat ma’asecha, this is the day it all began.”

How do we commemorate our being brought into this world? The answer is through annually coronating God as King and Sovereign over us, the world and everything in it. The Vilna Gaon explains that the shofar on Rosh Hashanah serves in the role of trumpets at the King’s coronation, producing blasts of joy, celebration, and allegiance.

If connecting with the procedure and tradition of human royalty bring calm and comfort, all the more so when we coronate and celebrate God’s Monarchy with our rich practices and customs and with it accept the order, discipline, and stability that a life of loyalty to Him provides.

Rosh Hashanah has its own majesty and pageantry. The transfer to white Torah covers and curtain over the synagogue’s Ark, the reverberating sounds of the shofar, and the stirring traditional melodies – are nothing short of grand, regal, and royal.

Here are four things to keep in mind for this week’s Coronation of the King of Kings:

1. Loyal Member of the Kingdom

While a coronation is about establishing and celebrating a monarch, it generates a period of evaluation and judgment.  Following the coronation, the re-established monarch takes stock of His kingdom, evaluating the role and service of everything in it.  On Rosh Hashanah, everything in the world comes before the King to be assessed and considered.

In anticipation of the coronation, ask yourself if you are fulfilling the purpose for which you were created?  Are you living a mission-driven life, advancing the vision and values of the King?  Are you making the unique contributions that only you can make?

2. My Father, My King

In our case, the King is also our Father.  While the image of God as Monarch intimidates, imposes and instills fear and judgment, the description of Him as our Father reflects His love, affection, and fighting on our behalf.  While both are true, we refer to Him first as our Father reflecting that we are blessed to feel the closeness that He is our Father.

3. Don’t Sleep Through the Coronation

The custom is not to nap on Rosh Hashanah day.  On Coronation Day we should be so excited and exhilarated, so joyous and celebratory that we have no time or interest to take a doze.  But more significantly, being royalty demands that we don’t sleep through life, let it pass us by or be carried by momentum.

On Rosh Hashana we are meant to remain awake and aware, fully conscious, and present, not only physically, but spiritually.

4. Coronation and Community

Dr. Rockwell notes that the royals have the ability to make us feel like we’re part of one big happy family.  When we connect and care about the other members of the Kingdom, it brings honor to the King.  King Solomon taught (Proverbs 14:28) that the glory of the King is revealed when the masses are unified in their acceptance of His sovereignty.  Prepare for Coronation Day by connecting with fellow subjects of the King, showing them care and concern, feeling a sense of unity, a shared history and a shared destiny.

In the Rosh Hashanah prayers we recite, “And those from afar will hear and will come, and they will bestow on You the crown of kingship.”   “Afar” can be a geographic description or a spiritual one.  Even if you feel disconnected and far away, coronation is the time to come close and reconnect.

The royal website states that the coronation ceremony “has remained essentially the same over a thousand years,” so we can expect many of the same events from Queen Elizabeth's coronation to occur at the coming one for King Charles, even though more than 90% of the current population was not alive to see it.

In a world of constant upgrades and improvements, it is important to remember that new is not necessarily better and there are traditions that are meant to remain unchanged.  We are blessed to be heirs to a uniquely rich tradition, one that goes back much further than 1,000 years.  While our coronation ceremony remains unchanged, may each of us use this time to change for the better.

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