'Remember us for life, O King who desires life!'

Since we are asking for the gift of ‘life’, our first obligation is that the ‘life’ we are asking for, should be the one Hashem ‘wants’

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg

Our sages instituted that, in the Amidah on Rosh Hashanah, in the Avot bracha , we insert the words:זכרנו לחיים מלך חפץ בחיים וכתבנו לחיים למענך אלקים חיים:’’Remember us FOR LIFE, O King who DESIRES LIFE, and inscribe us in the BOOK OF LIFE- for Your sake, O Living G-d’.

-What is the ‘life’, for which we so fervently pray, on the Day of Judgement?

-What is this wondrous ‘Book of Life’, in which we yearn to be ‘inscribed’?

The Torah gives an answer to the first question: (Nitzavim 30:19:20)’I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life, so that you will live..to love Hashem your G-d, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him, for He is your life, and the length of your days’.

Rav Yaakov Etlinger comments :’Should a person ask: If Hashem wants us to go in the ‘good’ way, why did He also ‘give‘ a ‘bad‘ way? Answers the Sifri:’Since it says:’I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse’, lest Bnei Israel say: Since Hashem chose to give two paths, the way of life, and the way of death, we can go by the one we choose, תלמוד לומר: The Torah ‘teaches’ :ובחרת החיים:’and you shall choose life’.

פרוש:Meaning: why did Hashem not only give only ‘good’ in this world, and not create ‘bad’? The answer:so that it should be good for you, when ‘you choose’ good, ‘life’. Because if there was no choice, there would be no reward’.

Rav Moshe Feinstein notes that the Passuk, after adjuring us ‘you shall choose life’, adds:למען תחיה אתה וזרעך:’So that you live, you and your offspring’.

He expounds:’The Torah here teaches us that ‘the life’ we choose, should be in a manner that also influences our children; the manner in which we perform Mitzvot- with joy, and not as a burden- will be transmitted to them, and determine how they ‘live’; and, if you do so, then ‘you and your offspring, live’.

The Torah adds, in another passage:(Va’Etchanan 4:4);ואתם הדבקים בה׳ אלקיכם חיים כלכם היום:’And you who cleave to Hashem, all of you חיים היום: live today’.

The Shelah Hakadosh expounds :’This Passuk encompasses the whole of the Torah, and the deeds and conduct of man; that even when he is engaged in his worldly needs, he still ‘cleaves’ to Hashem.

‘At all times, he should have in his mind, that all comes from Hashem, and that his intent in seeking parnasa, should be to sustain his family so they can serve Hashem, and so as to be able to give צדקה, and be able, free of financial worry, to learn Torah and perform Mitzvot.

‘This person, therefore, cleaves to Hashem ‘all his life’’.

The Dubnow Maggid, noting that the Hebrew word for ‘cleave’, דבק, also means ‘to stick together’, expounds by way of a משל: of an allegory:’If one wishes להדביק: to ‘stick’ two planks together, for them to fully adhere, they must be perfectly aligned, as any deviation in either, will prevent this.

‘Therefore, if a person wishes ‘to cleave’, כביכול, to Hashem, he must ensure that he is completely ‘aligned’ with Hashem- by ‘listening to His voice’ in all that you do’.

The first of these two passages from the Torah, makes it clear that Hashem, in the words of our prayer, is מלך חפץ בחיים: A King who ‘desires’ ‘life’, as, whilst it gives man a choice, He adjures him:ובחרת בחיים: ‘and choose life’

Rav Matityahu Solomon adds :’Since we are asking Hashem for the gift of ‘life’, our first obligation is that the ‘life’ that we are asking for, should be the life that Hashem ‘wants’-למענך: for Your sake, Hashem’.

Rav Eliyahu Shlezinger comments:’Hashem created man ro live a life of רוחניות, to elevate himself, to learn and teach Torah, and do Mitzvot, and thereby sanctify Hashem’s Name.

‘Therefore, if our lives are למענך: ‘for Your sake’, כביכול, then Hashem has an ‘interest’ to grant us a good and blessed life.

‘However, if man only lives ‘for himself’, pursuing material and hedonistic ends, there is no reason for him ‘to be inscribed in the Book of Life’.

‘Man was created to live a life למענך, for the sake of Hashem, in this world; this is כל הסוד על רגל אחת: ‘the whole secret, on one leg’’.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak me’Berdichev, expounds:’למענך’: ‘for Your sake’, שיהא לך תענוג מזה:’that You, Hashem, should have pleasure from it’, from our lives.

Rav Elyah Lopian adds:’The Torah says:(Va’etchanan 6:18)’And you shall do that which is fair and good in the eyes of Hashem, so that it shall be good for you‘.

‘It is not enough for a man to do Mitzvot רק כדי לצאת ידי חובה ולהפטר ממנה: only for the purpose of ‘fulfilling your obligation’; but, in all that you do, you should seek to do that ‘which is fair and good in Hashem’s eyes’- so as לעשות נחת רוח לפניך יתברך:to give nachat and pleasure, to You, Hashem’.

Since the ‘heart’ of the ‘life’ we seek, is ‘to live’, by performing Mitzvot, how do we achieve this?

Rabenu Bahya, in Chovot Halevavot, expounds:’The זכות to perform Mitzvot is not in the hands of man, but is in the hands of Hashem.

‘What, then is man’s ‘share’? Only הבחירה: the choice, the decision, the desire, to perform Mitzvot’.

The Kuzari brings a beautiful insight to this:’When a Mitzvah comes before a person, it is כאילו אתה באכסניותו קרוא אל שלחנו: as if the person is invited to come into Hashem’s presence, as if ‘you are called to His table’.

Can we not see an allusion to this, in the very word מצוה? if we
re-arrange its letters, it spells צו מה׳: a ‘summons’ from Hashem!

The Slonimer Rebbe, the Darchei Noam, notes that the word צו, alludes to צוותא, together- ‘supporting’ our drasha: that by performing Mitzvot, we cleave to Him, becoming, כביכול, ‘together’ with Hashem.

The Radomsker Rebbe brings a Passuk, to teach that the doing of Mitzvot is a חסד, a kindness from Hashem.

He expounds:’David Hamelech, whose only purpose in life was to serve Hashem and to observe His Mitzvot, asked Hashem (Ps’ 119:17):גמל על עבדך אחיה: ‘Bestow upon Your servant that I should live, that I may keep your word’.

‘Though the Book of Psalms is replete with proof that all he sought in his life in this world, was to serve Hashem, David Hamelech nevertheless saw it as a חסד from Hashem, that he was able to do so’.

Rav Solomon ‘sweetens’ the Mussar:’The simcha of Mitzvah, is that Hashem has given you the כח ואפשרות: the ability and the opportunity to perform a mitzvah. ‘Whilst the בחירה: the ‘choice’ to do it is in the hands of man, the זכות to perform it, is a gift from Hashem- man is obligated to rejoice, to have שמחה של מצוה, for this gift from Above’.

The Shem Me’Shmuel adds ‘lustre’ to Hashem’s חסד:’In the merit of the קבלה: the ‘resolution’ by a person, to be ‘better’ from now on, in his Service of Hashem-notwithstanding that he made, and did not observe, the very same resolution, the previous year-Hashem grants him ‘life’ for the coming year’.

Now to our second question: our prayer to be ‘inscribed’ in the ‘Book of Life’.

The Netivot Shalom comments :’בפשטות: on a ‘plain’ level, the inscription in ‘the Book of Life’ is dependent on man’s deeds in the year that has just ended.

However, the hassidic master, the Toldot Yaakov Yosef, writes :’‘The book of life‘ relates, not to the past year, but to the New Year. Every Jew is able to ‘inscribe himself’ on Rosh Hashanah in this Book, by accepting upon himself to observe Hashem’s Mitzvot in the coming year’; and, if he is sincere, he will be assisted from above; he will be given opportunities to do Mitzvot, and to thereby ‘live’, to ‘cleave’ to Hashem’.

So we can answer our two questions ‘in one’: If we truly seek ‘life’ for the ‘sake of Hashem’, surely Hashem WILL ‘remember us for life’, and will grant us the opportunity to perform Mitzvot- and, thereby, to be ‘Inscribed in His book of Life’.

With your permission, let us now share another approach, from Rav Azriel Tauber.

The Rav offers the following beautiful insight:’Rosh Hashanah differs from all other Moadim- in all of them we ‘receive’ from Hashem ברכת מועדיך:’The blessings of Your festivals’.

‘On Rosh Hashanah, on the other hand, we ‘give’ to Hashem! Our ‘gift‘ to Hashem is to fulfill His ‘request’(Rosh Hashanah 16.):אמרו לפני מלכיות שתמליכוני עליכם: ‘Say before Me the passages of ‘kingship, so that you crown Me, over yourselves’.
‘By simple logic, there is nothing that we can give Hashem, for he is complete, but we are required להאמין: to ‘believe’ that he asks us to ‘Crown Him, over us’.

‘And, as ‘there can be no King, without an ‘army’- a nation, for Hashem to be ‘a King’, He ‘depends’ on us, to crown Him, on each Rosh Hashanah!

‘Should we fail to do so- or cast off the yolk of His Mitzvot- He will clearly still be the Ruler of the world, but, by definition, as He will not have ‘His army’, he will not be ‘a King’.

’The extent to which we fulfill His command, to Crown Him, determines the nature of His rule: as a King, or a מושל: a Ruler.

‘This is our main task on Rosh Hashanah, to ‘crown Him’ over us, to fulfill His will, to be ‘a King’.

This is also seen in the Torah calling Rosh Hashanah יום תרועה: ‘The day of the Blowing’ of the Shofar- alluding to the manner in which kings are crowned.


Concludes the Rav:‘Why did Hashem ‘place’ this momentous matter in the hands of Am Israel? Because of His love of us, to give us the ‘opportunity’ to ‘give’ something back to Him!’.

Perhaps we can find support for this, in the comment of the Bnei Yissaschar, on the Passuk:(Pinchas 29:1):’In the seventh month, on the first day of the month..it shall be a day of תרועה: of shofar-blowing day לכם: for you’:‘belonging’ to you’.

With the greatest deference to the Rav, could we not suggest a further reason, for the gift of this privilege?

Might it not be due to Hashem being מלך חפץ בחיים, as the Sages added?

Since, as we have brought, the חיים He ‘desires‘, is that we fully accept all His Mitzvot, by us crowning Him as our King, we are accepting to do all that He, מלך חפץ בחיים, commands- and thereby ‘enable‘ Him, המלך החפץ בחיים, to fulfill His Will, His Wish, to grant us ‘life’.

May we be blessed to receive the beautiful Bracha: תזכו למצוות, in the New Year- to merit to receive ‘many invitations’ from Hashem, to perform Mitzvot, and thereby to come closer to Him.

A parting thought on the Book of Life, in which we seek to be ‘inscribed’.

Rav Yaakov Emden comments on the Mishna:(Avot 2:1)’And all your deeds are inscribed in the book’:‘The book is your נפש, for all your deeds have an indelible effect on your נשמה.
:’Therefore our prayer ‘inscribe us in the Book of Life’, is a prayer to Hashem, that He grant us סייעתה דשמיא: ’assistance from Above’, to perform Mitzvot in the New Year, and להרשם בנפשנו בפנים לחיי קדושה’: and that our souls are ‘inscribed’ with a ‘life of kedusha’’.

So, L’Chaim: ‘to life’, 5781!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.