Why we wish each other a hearty L’chayim (and not a L’keeyum)

Rabbi Manis Friedman, in a speech, once explained the blessing of She’hecheyanoo V’Keemanoo and why it is said in that order.

Chayim means life and Keeyum means existence. In order to have life, something has to exist, so really the order of the blessing should read differently, namely first we exist, then we live. In order to understand this, we must understand the difference between Chay and Kayum.

We know something exists because it takes up place. The table in front of you, you know it exists because you see it and you can bump into it – it is taking space. The thought in your head is taking up space in your brain – you can’t have two thoughts. The feeling you feel is taking up space in your heart. We know something is Kayum if it has taken space in this world. What is Chayim, then? It is the function for which something exists. A human takes up space, and in order to maintain that space, the person has to hustle, has to eat, has to sleep, has to make sure no one invades his space. A person can do amazing things, be giving, bring the awareness of G-d to everyone around him. This has nothing to do with existence, this is what Chayim is all about. Many people are boastful because of things that have to do with their Keeyum [existence], their big diamond, their bigger SUV, their even bigger house. This is only related to their existence and has nothing to do with who they really are. Who they are is the output they put into the world, the potential of their Neshama [soul] that they live up to. That is Chayim [life].

Many people are Kayum, they exist; but do very little of living. This is why the Torah tells us “U’vacharta BaChayim” [you shall choose life], we should work on choosing life over existence, that our focus should be on what our function in the world is, and not on how to make our space seem more luxurious and expanded. If we all were to change our focus, thinking to ourselves — what is my function — we might come to realize that we’ve got great potential and great things are expected of us.

L’Chayim, my friends, may we choose life over mere existence. May we do more than just take up space on this planet.


Rabbi Manis Friedman’s teachings can be accessed here: http://www.rabbifriedman.org/


About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
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