New Reflections on an Old Prayer

New Reflections on an Old Prayer

“On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed

And on Yom Kippur it is sealed

How many shall die and how many shall be born

Who shall live and who shall die…”

A woman living with advanced cancer recently shared with me that as she read the prayer, “Who shall live and who shall die,” on Rosh Hashana, she shifted her focus from the literal interpretation of the prayer on life and death, to now seeing the prayer more metaphorically as a template for how to live life. Seeing this highly charged and emotional prayer from a different angle offers a guideline on how to experience life and living, particularly when facing difficulties and challenges in your life.

I relayed her message to other women living with advanced cancer in Sharsheret’s Embrace program, who deepened the discussion by adding their own interpretations to this historical and timeless prayer.

Am I living my life to the fullest or am I focused on dying?
How am I measuring my days? Am I squandering time?
Do I live my life reacting to everything as if my home is on fire or damaged from a great flood? Not everything is a 10 on the stress scale.
What should I be hungering for? Am I yearning for the right things? What are my true needs?
Am I strangling myself by constant thoughts of fear and anxiety, negativity, jealousy, or anger?
Am I taking time to rest or am I always wandering, running? Do moments of rest scare me?
How can I live my life in tranquility and not give into the bullying of cancer?
How do I place a value on my life? In what ways am I wealthy (not monetarily)? Do I appreciate my riches? Am I grateful for what I have?
How do I continue to raise myself?

As we approach Yom Kippur, our task is to reflect back on this past year in order to help us move forward. With new eyes on this prayer, we can find hope and inspiration for this upcoming year. I wish all of us meaningful and uplifting reflections.