“To Life! To Life, L’Chaim”

(Blog post by Stan Kellner – www.stankellner.com)

Read John 10:1-10, esp. vs. 10

Remember the part in Fiddler on the Roof…wait a minute.  You haven’t seen it yet?  How shameful of you.  What would your mother think?

Quick, go to Netflix, download it, watch it, then come back to my blog post.  Just kidding.

But what I’m not kidding about is the awesomeness of the movie, Fiddler on the Roof.  So many moments, so many poignant thoughts.  Oy Vey!  What’s not to like?

One of my favorite parts is the scene where Tevya and Lazar Wolf struck a deal about Tevya’s daughter.  They lifted up the glass and sang “To Life, to Life, L’Chaim, L’Chaim, L’Chaim, to Life…” (You can view it on YouTube – just type in “to life l’chaim Fiddler on the Roof”)

Okay, first, a little Hebrew lesson.  (By the way, I know a little Hebrew.  He owns a tailor shop down the street!)  Okay, okay. Back to the lesson.

L’chaim.  Chaim is pronounced – cha – yeem.  How do I explain the “Ch” sound?  It’s like the “ch” in the German word “Achtung” – guttural, throat-clearing.  The root word in Hebrew is Chai – pronounced “chy” like, “Chy, how ya doin’?” (tee hee)

Chaim is the plural form of Chai.  So, as Chai generally means “to live”; Chaim tends toward the meaning of living a multitude of days or a full life. The “L'” on the front of a Hebrew word means “to”.  So, L’Chaim – to living a full life.

Thus, the reference to John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life and life more abundantly”.  Abundant life.  Full life.  A full experience.  My cup runneth over.

I want to be careful not to step on too many toes of some TV preachers but abundant life doesn’t necessarily equal how much financial wealth someone has, how many cars, houses, toys, etc.  I’m not dissing those to whom God has blest that way. 

But the modern-day application of this term has been born out, especially as I know from my Jewish heritage, with life that has been oft lived in a ghetto setting or in the shadow of a cruel dictator or whatever.

The point being is this concept of full life or abundance goes MUCH deeper than material possessions or life circumstances.  It hits straight to the heart.  It strikes to the very core of our being.

L’Chaim is a phrase used in all kinds of Jewish settings.  It is often repeated at weddings, even funerals, Bar Mitzvahs, Shabbat (Sabbath) or all kinds of other get togethers or special events.  In our upbringing we would say it after having some Manischevitz wine (even though to this day I’d much prefer a nice White Merlot by Beringer…but that’s a whole different topic).  It’s much like the word “Salut” in the French language.

Okay, let’s dig a little deeper to see how it relates to you and me today, this idea of a full life or abundant life.

A key part of the Jewish wedding ceremony comes when the couple drinks from two separate cups of wine – the cup of joy and the cup of sorrow.  They can’t just drink from one or the other.  They both must drink from both cups.

The symbolism?  They can only experience full or abundant life when they experience a full measure of both good and ill in their lives. 

Scripture even tells us that all good makes us think we can do it on our own.  (Read Deuteronomy 8:11-20)  All ill can bring bitterness to the heart.  (Read Job 7:11)  A proper mixture of both reminds us of the fact that both the joys of life and the sorrows of life are allowed by Almighty God, our Abba who cares deeply for us.

So, as we journey through 2011, what are some of the take aways of this post?

  • GOD is sovereign, not YOU or ME.
  • Whether He allows it or causes it, both good and ill will come to the life of a follower of God.  (check out Lamentations 3:38 but also don’t miss 3:22-23)
  • If you are experiencing good times, be sure to give God all the glory for His blessings.
  • If you are experiencing ill times (as so many are in the U.S.), work hard to see God’s hand in your life.  Boy, do I know this one!
  • Give thanks IN all things.  (I Thessalonians 5:18).  This has been the toughest one for me during this most recent journey.
  • “To Life” brings with it the idea of celebration.  In the midst of your challenges, take time to notice moments that you can celebrate. 

My recent moment of celebration

  • Just today, as I crafted this blog post, I noticed an unbelievably red cardinal sitting on a branch in our backyard with the backdrop of freshly fallen white snow here in Ohio.  What a stark but beautiful contrast and evidence of God’s handiwork in His creation.  If He cares that much about a cardinal and snow, think how much He cares for YOU and ME.

So, to the snow and to the red cardinal I say, “L’Chaim!”

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