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14http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2010/09/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---09_03_2010
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 09_03_2010
09/03/2010 10:53 AM Posted by: Rabbi Lyon

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

September 3, 2010

 

 

                This is the season when we wish each other a Happy New Year, as the Jewish New Year 5771 begins. It’s also the time we add our hope that we should all be inscribed in the Book of Life. For ages, we’ve spoken of this Book of Life, and fervently prayed that we would be written in it for a good year.

                In this week’s Torah portion, a double portion called Netzavim-Vayelech, from Deuteronomy 30:15, we read, “See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity…” And then we read (30:19), “Choose life, if you and your offspring would live by loving God.” What is the life we’re choosing? The Hebrew tells us so much more than the English. In Hebrew, life is plural (chayyim). It’s as if to say, “Choose lives”; not plural lives but a multi-faceted life. When we are commanded to choose “chayyim” we are accepting everything that life inevitably is. As we read in the Torah verses, life is prosperity but it’s also death and adversity. We cannot choose life in its singular form. That is, when we choose life we cannot be so particular as to choose or expect that life will only be what we desire. Life is never simply peace and tranquility without also struggle and angst. Therefore, the Hebrew “chayyim” tells the truth about life when we choose it.

                In all its complexities, the Torah outlines for us what “chayyim” also provides us. We don’t go it alone. Rather, our life is lived in God’s presence in a binding relationship we call a covenant. Frankly, I would not be satisfied in my life without God’s presence bound up into a mutual covenant. God is my surety in a relationship that Torah teaches me includes God’s eternal presence in a sacred covenant. How do I know? At the beginning of the portion (Deut. 29:9), we read, “You stand this day, all of you… I make this covenant with those who are standing here with us this day before God and with those who are not with us here this day.” I wasn’t standing at Sinai, but my place in the covenant, like yours, was anticipated.

                As the New Year comes, life for us has been anything but singular. In all its “plurals”, life has been a series of paired qualities: sickness and health, joy and sorrow, tranquility and unease, life and death. And, in all these moments, God’s presence has been available to us to provide us what we needed. Different for each of us, nevertheless, God’s presence provided healing medicine in sickness, relief and gratitude in renewed health, praise in joy and comfort in sorrow, peace in tranquility and security in unease, and blessing in life and consolation in death. Chayyim is plural and so are God’s attributes which provide meaning in all the times of our lives.

                Rosh Hashanah is not a guarantee that life will be only sweet. It is a hope that at its best life will be sweet and prosperous. As long as God’s covenant prevails with us then we will also prevail. Now, “U’vacharta b’chayyim” let us choose life in all its array for a New Year filled with God’s presence and our greatest hopes.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.


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