Kivnei Maron

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

According to Unetaneh Tokef, the moving liturgical poem of the High Holy Days, we all pass before God, kivnei maron, as a shepherd examines his flock passing his sheep beneath his staff, so... every living soul...

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 18b) offers three different meanings for kivnei maron: like sheep passing before their shepherd; like those who ascend the steep, mountain pass, Beit Maron and must climb single file; and like the troops of the house of David. All three explanations refer to being counted as individuals.

Scholars have shown the etymology of kivnei maron is ki-numeron, like a numeron, which is Greek for a legion or cohort and that in early manuscripts of Unetaneh Tokef, kivinumeron appears.

Each interpretation reveals a different aspect of our situation on Rosh Hashanah: We may be like lost, vulnerable sheep; like hardy spiritual mountaineers climbers, or like soldiers entrusted with a vital mission.

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 6 2009