I have never experienced anything like this. Last Friday, my wife, three of my children, my daughter-in-law, one son-in-law, three grandchildren and I descended upon Einstein Medical Center with over one thousand other people for Match Day. Match Day is on the third Friday of March each year and Match Day ceremonies occur at many of the 155 medical schools in the United States. Match Day is the day when medical school students find out to which residency, internship or fellowship program they have been accepted. By participating in the program, they agree to attend the program to which they match. The students find out ahead of time if they have matched into a program, so all the students who attend Match Day know that they have matched at some program and on Match Day they discover the identity of the program.
In the lead-up to this moment, the excitement built as students, faculty, staff, friends and family – including many small children – arrived for the annual celebration and mingled on the lawn of the Einstein Medical Center grounds. When we arrived at the lawn, we saw a long string tied from one tree to another tree. Almost two hundred envelopes were tied to the string with a picture on each envelope of a different medical student that matched. The envelopes were attached in alphabetical order. Einstein Medical Center staff guarded the envelopes such that nobody took any of them until 12 pm. Students were given signs and they would write on the signs their name, their specialty, and when known, the school where they matched. After about twenty minutes of speeches by different members of the Einstein Medical Center administration, the countdown began. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. 12 pm! Each medical school student ran to grab his or her envelope and many of them opened their envelopes on the spot. My daughter took her envelope and ran and I followed her to an area where our belongings were and our family centered around her. Within a few minutes, over a thousand people celebrated as medical students opened their envelopes to find out where they matched.
What I found unique about this event was that it was not a graduation, when everyone essentially received the same degree, but it was a time when each student received a unique job offer that was suited to him or her that would lead him or her to a new stage in life. Each student celebrated his or her individual accomplishment not by receiving a letter in the mail, a phone call or an email. Each student celebrated his or her accomplishment in the context of an entire community. There is something very special about that.
In fact, my daughter had a good friend and fellow medical student who was also hoping for a good “match” on Match Day. The two of them gathered together with their envelopes a few seconds after 12 pm, with their families around them, and they opened their letters simultaneously. They looked at each other’s acceptance letters first and they shrieked out of joy for each other. This is what it means to celebrate as a community and to celebrate the accomplishments of each other.
This past Shabbat, my oldest son, Netanel, delivered a drasha in our shul about the beauty of the mishkan, that different groups of individuals donated unique materials for its construction. As such, the mishkan allows different individuals distinct religious portals of entry. The success of the community centered around the mishkan is tied to the ability of each individual to strive for greatness and to celebrate success within the context of community. After the mishkan was constructed, Moshe Rabbenu blessed the people. The Midrash Tanchuma explains that Moshe issued the following blessing, “y’hi ratzon she-tishre shechina b’ma-asei y’deichem,” or “may it be the will [of God] that the Divine presence should rest upon your handiwork.” Each one of us makes our unique contributions, but we are blessed together and we all celebrate together.
A mashgiach in the Mirrer Yeshiva years ago once quoted a passage from the gemara in Masechet Chagiga 4b which lists different pesukim that made different talmudic sages cry. For example, when one sage read the pasuk when Yosef disclosed his identity to his brothers, he would cry. When another sage read about how Shmuel was angry at Shaul when the latter summoned Shmuel from the dead, the sage would cry. Now these sages knew the entire Torah, but each one had his own pasuk that made him cry. The mashgiach then turned to his students and said, “And my job now is to find out what pasuk makes you cry.” Everyone has different portals of entry to connect with God and with our beautiful mesora. We are all passionate about different things. There’s no one size fits all. For some of us, it’s through the intellect. For some of us, it’s through song. For some of us, it’s through a sense of community and belonging. For some of us, it’s through medinat Yisrael. And the list goes on. Imagine how stronger our communities would be if our communal mission statement was: “We as a community celebrate the uniqueness of every member, we will encourage each member to strive for greatness, and we will celebrate each member’s success.” Match Day was a sterling example of how special our communities can become if we celebrate individual success in the context of community.