One Voice September 2020
WHO WRITES THE BOOK OF LIFE
In our prayers recited during this holy season, we are told of a book: sometimes
referred to as a Book of Life, sometimes as a book of Memories. “on Rosh Hashana it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who will live and who will die”
Does this mean that my life is pre-ordained? Do I have no choices to make?
We assume it is God who is writing this “Book of Life”, but a closer look shows us that when God opens our “Book of Memories”, “the signature of each of us is attached”.
We write our own book of life. It is up to us to find meaning in these sacred hours we spend at prayer. It is the job of each of us to peruse the book of life we wrote during this past year, and determine where we need to grow. Perhaps, if we want to extend the metaphor, we should see ourselves as editors. We open our book, we read our chapters and we make changes. Some of the chapters are entitled “family” or “community” or “Judaism” or “charity”. On these Holy days we ask ourselves, “What did we write in those chapters?” Did we give of ourselves as much as we should have? Did we live a life of mitzvah? Did we connect with God? Did we contribute to our community? Were we loving and giving to our children and grandchildren, to our spouses?”
And if we find ourselves lacking, as we all sometimes are, these Holy days are a time to write the outlines for the chapters we will write in the year to come. But it is not only individuals who write books of life and memories. Nations write books of life. Societies make memorable decisions involving life and death.
And we need time to edit these books as well. Last year those of us willing and able, met during these festivals with our families in our familiar seats perhaps sitting with our friends, sharing family stories. This year services will be different, and we will open a national book of suffering. More than any other
country, our nation has been struck by COVID-19. Many of us have friends who have been sick or
perhaps passed on from the virus. I am sure every one of us has been impacted in one way or another. Most of us have been limited in our travel, our work, or our family connections
How do we as a society view our national book of life during this past year? Why is the richest nation in the world the nation stricken the hardest by the pandemic? What can we edit? What can we change?
There are answers that can bring us back to the blessings we seek during this season. Open the books of science! Open the books of medicine. Consider the needs of your fellow human beings. Wear a mask in public places. Follow the rules of social distancing! Prioritize health over wealth!
Remember it is WE who write the book of life
Rabbi Jacob Rosner
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