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Sunday, October 5, 2008

L'chaim -- To Life!

I want to share with you what is still my favorite piece of Yomim Nora'im perspective, no matter how many times I hear it. I don't even know what source to cite here, because I've heard this so many ways, but it is perfect every time.

We've all asked HaShem for life many times over the past week, and we will continue to do so until the books go back on the shelf on Hoshana Rabah. You know, the books -- in which the righteous are immediately inscribed for life, the evil go straight to death, and the rest, well, the rest wait and see.
At least, that's what they told you in grade school. But did you really buy it? People die during the Ten Days. Regular people. OK, maybe they weren't perfect, but... evil? So evil as to be inscribed for immediate death? And we know, too, that evil people have lived through multiple Yom Kippurs. Hitler, for example, lasted long enough.
So what is one to think, as you stand in shul and offer possibly your most heartfelt prayers: "G-d, I'm too young to die!"

What is life?
If life is a combination of biochemical processes, then indeed we have a conflict here between Hebrew-school legend and observable fact.
Perhaps life for a bacterium is a mere set of biochemical processes. However, Life for a Jew is so much more. Life is your neshama growing. Life is moving closer to HaShem.
And Life doesn't end when the body stops, either. Chazal say, "The righteous, even after they die, are considered alive. And the evil, even during their lifetime, are considered dead." Because life without spirituality is not Life. And a spiritual life never ends. The soul never dies.

Not only does this translation resolve the apparent conflict, it also takes much of the guesswork out of the judgement process. For who besides you can decide whether you will live in spirituality? It's not so much a matter of "Please don't kill me, G-d!" as "Sign me up for Life!" You can decide where you want to go. The Days of Awe aren't a time for you to be picked up like a piece of junk and tossed onto one pile or the other -- "keep or toss." They're a time of clarity, for you to remember what your options are and re-commit to Life. A time for you to come back, realize which of your past actions were veering off track, and to set yourself straight again.

Teshuva? Of course I regret those actions which took me further from Life!
Chatasi -- I erred. Like an arrow that misses its mark -- I meant well but went off-target.
I stumbled. I was on the right path but something got in my way that I hadn't anticipated. I'll be more careful now.
I went astray. I thought I could take a shortcut, or a scenic route, and still get to Life. Now I realize that it's been right here for me all along.

G-d, sign me up for Life! Because life without You is not Life at all.

4 comments:

The Babysitter said...

That was great, I've never seen it before.

That was an important point, that we choose to sign up for life.

The Dreamer said...

same as babysitter.

and amen
LCHAIM!

The Babysitter said...

The Dreamer: would you be able to invite me to read your blog?

nmf #7 said...

Echoing comments from above- AMEN!