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Given on Sept. 2, 2013

Here at Northfield Mount Hermon we have a tradition at all-school meetings called the Moment of Silence. The speaker will generally speak for two to three minutes about something they wish to share. Whether a personal story or a current event, Moments of Silence are times for reflection and connection. With that in mind, we ask that those assembled not applaud or cheer when the speaker is announced or when he or she has concluded. When the speaker has finished, he or she will say “let us be silent,” and we will all take a moment to reflect on what he or she has shared. If you are interested in giving a Moment of Silence, please speak to our chaplain, Michael Corrigan.

Tomorrow, classes start. We have had peaceful, stressful, crazy, calm, busy, boring summers; we have done, skimmed, or skipped summer reading; we are new and returning, nervous and excited. But for freshman and four-year seniors alike, the start of classes is a threshold, the crossing of which coincides with two other occasions for reflection—the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur begins at sundown on the thirteenth and is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, frequently translated to “day of atonement” is a time to take stock of ourselves and to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged. Yom Kippur is observed with a day of prayer and fasting and seeks closure, as well as atonement.

Rosh Hashanah is another chance to look back and reflect. It begins this Wednesday, September 4, at sundown, and marks the beginning of a new year in the Jewish calendar. Like any New Year it is a chance to look back on and process the past year’s triumphs and losses. It is also a new beginning and a time for planning and making resolutions for the coming year.

These two holy days, and the ten days between them, begin the cycle of a new year: we close the book on that which came before, and look ahead to what has yet to come. Everyone here at NMH is beginning that cycle—from the freshmen, who put aside their lives before NMH and look forward to their lives as students here, to the seniors, who must look ahead to college and beyond. The nature of a school like Northfield Mount Hermon is itself cyclical—my brother graduated the year I came in as a freshman, and now I stand before you as a senior myself. My father, also an NMH graduate, likes to say, “NMH is the place where you become who you will be for the rest of your life.” We grow and evolve and change after we graduate, but sometime between fourteen and eighteen, parts of who we are and will be start to click into place. My father sees in himself at fifty the fifteen-year-old new sophomore, the seventeen-year-old senior. And I know that for the rest of my life who I was at NMH will inform who I am no matter where I end up. So on these holy days I invite you all to embrace this new turn of the wheel—close the book on the hurts and hardships of the past and make the most of the New Year’s opportunities for expanded horizons. L’shana tova, NMH; have a sweet year. Let us be silent.

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