Rosh Hashanah & The Book of Life

 By Rabbi Joyce Reinitz

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During the Jewish High Holiday Season (Sept-Oct), Jews traditionally wish each other “L’shanah Tova Tikatevu”  -- “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.” 

The 19th century Hasidic Master, Sefat Emet (lit: language of truth) taught that the Book of Life lies within  our very own hearts, deep within the sacred dwelling place of the soul where God inscribes the word LIFE. 

Through the year, our soul’s life force becomes scratched and dirty, accumulating grime and “schmutz” from the way we live. Our arrogance and greed blot out God’s sacred inscription. Fear, worry and envy cause it to become dull and tarnished.  Anger and resentment dim its glow and vitality. 

During the High Holiday Season, starting in the month of Elul, and then from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we give special attention to examining our heart and cleansing it of the grim that has accumulated.  Our prayers, thoughts, and actions are focused on washing away the behaviors that diminish our vitality, so that we can restore ourselves and secure a position in the Book of Life. 


Here is an imagery exercise to help this cleansing process. 


Gently close your eyes and breathe out three times slowly: long slow exhalations through the mouth (like a sigh) and normal inhalations through the nose.  


Now, breathe easily and regularly, and focus on your breath without controlling it. Breathing in and breathing out…breathing in and breathing out…breathing in and breathing out. 


Imagine that rather than taking a breath…sense that you are RECEIVING a breath…sense yourself being breathed into…


RELAX…RECEIVE each breath as a gift. Enjoy the gift of breath…enjoy the gift of Life…


Let your breathing find its own rhythm. Feel how the easy rhythm of your breath calms your mind and softens your heart.


Continue to follow your breath inward and enter the private sanctuary deep within your being. Stay for a while in this still quiet place. Sense what happens when you are quiet and still. 


Now, turning your eyes inward, look deep within your heart and see the word LIFE inscribed there. Take a good look at this inscription and see where there are any scratches, scuffs, dirt or dark areas. Is it faded or smudged? 


Breathe Out and sense how feelings of anger and resentment…and jealousy and judgment have dirtied and tarnished the inscription.


Breathe Out and sense how fear and worry have eroded its brilliance.  


See, sense, feel and know your desire to change the behaviors that diminish the vitality of your LIFE. See, sense and know what some of those behaviors are…


Breathe Out and imagine you are climbing up a very steep path, higher and higher until you reach a mighty waterfall. Standing under this waterfall, feel the rushing, clean, clear water flow over you, cleansing you inside and out.  


Feel the water cleansing your heart; washing away anger; washing away resentment; washing away regret; washing away envy; washing away greed; washing away arrogance; and washing away any other feelings muddying your LIFE. Stay there a long moment, feeling cleansed and renewed.


Now hear the Shofar (the ram’s horn):





See yourself opening to new possibilities…sense yourself welcoming the New Year, and see the Newness of the Year unfolding within you. Breathe Out and slowly open your eyes.