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When the Book of Life is Closed

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

The new year is upon us. Our book of life lies open before us.  We like to think that we have the luxury of time and many, many blank pages to fill in with fun and exciting moments as well as moments of depth and meaning.  We pause, now, to remember those whose books are completed.  For friends and loved ones who are no longer with us, the opportunity to add pages to the book of life is no more.  The midrash notes that- When a person is born, everyone rejoices; when they die, everyone cries. But that’s not the way it should be. When a person is born, we don’t know the nature of the life they will lead.  When they die, unless it is a tragic death, the loss of a young/younger person, we have a sense of satisfaction, since we know that the individual left this world in peace after living a good and proper life. To what can this be compared? To two ships that were in the ocean laden with merchandise. One ship was coming to port, the other was leaving. People were excited about the ship coming into port. Others stood by amazed and said, “Why are you rejoicing over this ship and not the other?” In reply they said to them, “We are praising the incoming ship since we know this ship has departed in peace and arrived at its destination in peace. But what the future will bring to the ship that has just begun its journey we do not know. ” So it is with a person who is born: we do not know the nature of his future deeds. But when he leaves this world we know the nature of his deeds.” (Yalkut Shimoni Ecclesiastes 7:1.)  Their book of life is closed, ours lies before us.  May the way we fill the pages of our book of life reflect the highest values that they held dear as we honor their memory now with the words of the mourner’s kaddish.

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