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    The notes below are based on an audio shiur by Rabbi Kirzner (zt”l) titled Inscribing Oneself In The Book of Life:

    What is the concept of the book of life? What does it mean that Hashem opens the book of life and book of death? We think that Hashem opens up two books and we are tugging on G-d’s hand to write us in the right book. Is this what Rosh Hashana is all about?

    The Zohar says that it is possible for Hashem to look at us on Rosh Hashana and see dogs barking, give me, give me. What does the Zohar means? If we believe that Hashem is the source of everything, it would seem commendable to ask Hashem to provide for us.

    Further perplexing, is that Rosh Hashana is described as a day of judgment not just for man but all beings even inanimate objects. What is the meaning of this? How can objects with no choice be judged? If there is no choice, then there is no responsibility for choice. But our literature suggests that even angels are judged on this day.

    We also need to understand the nature of Rosh Hashana. On the one hand, we refer to Rosh Hashana as a chag. We make a bracha of shehechiyonu, also suggesting it as a happy occasion. Halacha further dictates to treat R”H as a Yom Tov. On the other hand, R”H is a day of judgment on life and quality of life. It is a very solemn day; the sounds of Shofar resemble crying. So how is one to feel on Rosh Hashana?

    We can begin to answer the above questions as follows. The Arizal says that once every year on R”H, Hashem reviews the condition of the world and asks the following question. If I were to create the world today, knowing everything I know now, would I CHOOSE to create it again? Just as a healthy and vibrant relationship requires that both people need to be able to say in the morning that if I had to chose the relationship today I would chose it, so to Hashem, examines the world to determine if he would chose to create it again. And just like in a relationship even if I have problems now, and would not have looked for them originally, I must choose to make the relationship work, so to Hashem, looks at the world to see if there is a desire for the world to work on the relationship. A meaningful lasting relationship cannot go on the inertia of the past. So on Rosh Hashana, G-d looks at this world to see if it is on track of the original purpose and if it is not, is there at least a possibility for it to get back on track.

    Therefore, in this regard Hashem judges everything in the universe (even inanimate objects) because there is nothing in this world that does not have a role in the purpose of the world (albeit some direct and some indirect); the purpose being for man to receive the highest good, which is relationship with Hashem.

    Rosh Hashana is not an accounting audit to see whether a person is in the red. Rosh Hashana looks at something much more encompassing. Is man in synchronization with the purpose of the world (with successes and failures)? Does the person know the purpose of his being and is he going in the direction of the purpose of creation.

    Therefore, it is possible for a person to say to Hashem on the day of Rosh Hashana as follows. If you look at the last 365 days you will find days replete with mistakes (even purposeful ones) but I am prepared to say that even though for the past year I have been oblivious to the purpose of creation but on this day I am prepared to learn the purpose for which I was created and commit to use my resources and resources of this world to take up this responsibility. Give me this chance to re-align myself with the purpose and to live my life philosophically and behaviorally in sync with the purpose of creation. Therefore, the yardstick of Rosh Hashana is not an accounting bottom line did you do good or not but rather am I in sync with the purpose of creation.

    (When we talk about the world having a purpose we mean the following. The world around us which we can quantify is the body. But the world also has a soul also. The soul of the world is that it can become a setting and enable a man to accomplish his purpose. Purpose of the universe is the spiritual energy that gives legitimate existence to the physical presence of the world.

    Therefore the Zohar says that Rosh Hashana is the judgment on the soul. Rosh Hashana is not dealing with the world of actions, the bodily behavior of the person but rather of there is still Neshoma left in this body. Hashem in his great graciousness judges whether a spirit is still left in the body if at least on this day a person can say that I want to live in sync with the purpose of creation.

    This of course is not so easy if all year long we say to heck with soul and all of the sudden talk soul. But the main problem is not that the person does not understand this but that a person looses belief that I can live in a calling of soul. People are scared that as much as they will attach an importance to the soul they can’t handle it. So why build it up and make it too big and too important and then be disappointed that I won’t be able to bring it into my being. So essentially, the work of the day of Rosh Hashana is to work on courage to overcome the fear.)

    So when we say the book of life and book of death is open and the person should be concerned about which book he is to be written, G-d is not holding the pen, man is holding the pen. The day of Rosh Hashana is not a spiritual audit but rather Hashem is giving us the pen and asks are you willing to write yourself in the book of life.

    With this we can understand the peculiar mixture of the day of Rosh Hashana. Yes it’s a day of judgment with all of its concerns but it has peculiar happiness because Hashem is saying whatever was in the past let’s set it aside today. I am ready to renew a covenant with the universe. The day of Rosh Hashana is when G-d is seriously considering renewing the contract with humanity. And all that man has to do is to say that he is willing to live his purpose. As long as a Jew says that I am willing to live my life in sync with the soul of the world then a person can leave 100% confident that he/she left the courtroom successfully. Yes, there is a lot of hard work ahead, but I can know for certain that I have written myself in the book of life. Further, the idea of celebrating is a sense of commitment to the chosen path. Celebration is a spiritual fortification of the selected path.

    tomim tihye

    Ilya: Bolshoy Yasher Koach! Rav Kirzner, ztz”l, always gives me great chizuk. It’s good to see his words in print.


    Wow! we so need this right now. Ogromnoye spacibo! Tizku L’Mitzvos!

    Sister Bear

    ilyae1301 – thank you so much for posting this. It’s really inspiring and just what we need. I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty to copy it and email it to my family and friends, who really enjoyed it (especially the non-frum ones)

    Thank you!!! May you have a ????? ?????? ????!!!


    Rabbi Kirzner (ztz”l) was one of a kind individual that has the ability to awake the heart. You can purchase his MP3 shiurim at the following site: I recommend his Chumash Bible Series as well as Relationship & Why the Innocent Suffer series. Every shiur will move you.

    Ksiva V’Chasima Tova To All!


    Thank you! Is that the Rabbi Kirzne from Boro Park- his wife is the principal of Bais Yaakov BP? Thank you again- really inspiring

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