One goal of the High Holidays is to be inscribed in God’s Book of Life. Whether veritable or metaphorical, the imagery works. There’s an essentially Jewish approach to getting name-dropped into the Book of Life.
The concept of a book of life comes from Exodus 32:33. In a dialogue with Moses after the Golden Calf apostasy, an angry God threatens to remove the sinners from his book. References to books of life and death follow in Ezekiel and the Babylonian Talmud.
The importance of the book imagery is how it helps us to focus our intentions during the High Holidays. Are we remorseful enough to merit having God put pen to paper on our behalf?
The sages and rabbis of our tradition advise that we start the High Holidays by asking forgiveness of our family and friends, even before we address God. This guidance reveals the core principle of Jewish life. To rescue our own selves, we start by repairing our relationships with others. Our respect for and appreciation of the individuals in our lives is a prerequisite to our approaching God for forgiveness. Once again, the ritual life of our tradition demonstrates that Judaism is found in relationships, our connection to others, and our relationship with God.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, open your book of relationships. Make connections with all whom you may have offended, which is everyone. Repair those bonds that elucidate who you are. With practice, you may be ready to address God for forgiveness by the time Yom Kippur rolls around.
Shana Tova U’Metukah, a good and sweet year to all.
Rabbi Evan J. Krame