One of many changes in our new High Holiday prayer books, Mishkan Hanefesh is found in the Avinu Malkeinu prayer. The phrase that was translated as “seal us for blessing in the Book of Life” in the old Gates of Repentance, now reads, “enter our names in the Book of Lives Well Lived” (I thank Fred Franklin for pointing it out to me.)
This subtle change in language reflects a significant difference in theology. Only we ourselves determine how well our lives are lived. While we cannot control what befalls us in this new year, we can choose our response.
Rabbi David Hartmann taught, “Teshuva is grounded in the idea of an open future, in the belief that the possibilities for human change have not been exhausted, that the final chapters of our personal narratives have not yet been written. The sense of empowerment felt on Yom Kippur reflects an underlying faith in the power of the human will to break the fixed cycles of the past and to chart new possibilities for the future.”
This truth is inspiring because it reminds us of our endless capacity to grow and transform for the better. The next chapters in the narratives of our lives have not been written. As we enter 5779, it is up to us to write the book of a life well lived.