Guest Column by Rabbi Adam Starr
During the High Holidays we focus on the theme of chayim — life.
All of the four liturgical insertions that we make in the Amidah during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva (10 Days of Repentance) refer to the theme of life. The first insertion, in fact, has a fourfold repetition of chayim as we recite, “Remember us for life, O King who desires life, and write us in the Book of Life for Your sake, King of Life.”
On the High Holidays we positively affirm the call in the Torah to actively choose life, as the Torah tells us, “Choose life so that you and your offspring shall live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). We are reminded to appreciate the gift of life and not take it for granted.
We offer thanks to G-d for all the blessings that we have been given in our lives, from the small to the big. We also focus on appreciating our family, friends and community, with whom we have been blessed to share our life. It is during this season, despite the personal and communal challenges we and our people face, that we continue to celebrate G-d’s gift of life.
The High Holidays are not only about appreciating and celebrating life; they are also about choosing to transform and enrich our lives. During this period of introspection we have the opportunity to choose to grow spiritually, making our lives more meaningful and purposeful. It is a time to ask ourselves important and even challenging questions:
- Are we living up to our potential?
- How can we live more Jewishly engaged lives?
- What more can we do to help others in need?
- What is each of us doing to benefit our community?
- What are we doing to support Israel?
- How can this year be better than the last?
If we take this time of year seriously, it has the power to elevate and enrich our lives.
When is the best time to make the decision to choose life? The mahzor answers that question with the final prayer of the Musaf service, “Hayom”: It is today, by living each day of the year 5777 to its fullest.
Talya, Maayan, Yakira, Adin and Ezriel join me in wishing you and your loved ones a shana tova filled with all the blessings life has to offer.
Rabbi Adam Starr is the spiritual leader of Young Israel of Toco Hills.