Rosh Hashanah Cards – The Book of Life

Amongst the more popular themes found on Rosh Hashanah cards is the wish that the recipient be inscribed in the Book of Life. This idea stems from the tradition that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, marks the creation of the world. As such, it is a time of judgment when all men must stand before t he Almighty and face a reckoning of their deeds from the past year. boccaccioravello

It is common, therefore, to find Rosh Hashana cards with a picture of the Lord, sitting in judgment upon His throne, with two books open before Him. These are the Book of Life and the Book of Death. Those who have been totally righteous are immediately inscribed in the Book of Life. The evil and wicked, on the other hand, are immediately written down in the Book of Death.

Most of us, however, fall somewhere in between. We are neither perfectly good nor absolutely bad.

In an act of mercy, the Creator gives us a ten day grace period, to “get our act together”. These ten days, which fall between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are referred to as the Ten Days of Penitence.

If we use this time wisely, by reflecting on our past actions, regretting our mistakes and sincerely vow never to repeat them, we will be forgiven and sealed in the Book of Life. This is the accepted tradition. coloradoskihome

There is, however, a radically different interpretation of this story. The source is Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, commonly referred to by the name of his best known book, the Toldot Yaakov Yosef.

The Toldot Yaakov Yosef lived in the mid 1700’s. He was one of the foremost disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. His version of this tradition is as follows.

When each of us stands before the heavenly court the Lord will hand us a pen.

Addressing us, the Creator will say the following:”That which you have done in the past does not concern Me. What are important are your actions in the future.”

“Take this pen and decide for yourself. Inscribe your name in whichever book you see fit. You are the judge and you are the one who will determine your future”.

This rendition captures the heart of Chassidic philosophy. Responsibility for ou r actions and our future are dependent on man, not G-d. It is we who ultimately determine our fate. For more info please visit these sites :-

As such, Rosh Hashanah is a day filled with awe, solemnity and joy. If we choose to inscribe our name in the Book of Life, the Lord will delight.

But such a commitment requires us to be accountable both to ourselves and the heavenly court.

Rosh Hashanah cards and their motifs may appear trite and simple, but hidden within are rich traditions and deep meanings.


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