Bernard L. De Koven

On Having Fun

L'Chaim

It’s a toast, is what it is. Not rye or wry. It's the word l'Chaim!

Posted Aug 01, 2017

Lately, I’ve been having trouble using their word “God” to refer to the things and beings I used to refer to when I used that word. Being of Jewish persuasion (I’m talking son-of-a-Rabbi-type persuasion) (and that was a lot of persuasion) it hasn’t been all that easy for me. A word, especially the God one, has a lot of power.

But as I grew older and older, I felt further and further from that very word. It just stopped feeling right. It lost its power to describe what I really felt, the big connection, so to speak, the eternal enchilada in its entirety. Like too weak. Like wrong. And now I can’t even say “God Bless You” to someone without wincing.

So I’ve been looking for another word. A substitution that would feel as embracing, as, well, holy, but not, you know, divine.

So I searched through my ever-dimming recall of Jewish lore, and I came across a common expression that practically every Jew (and many of the non-) uses. One that doesn’t really have anything godly about it, but seemed to me, probably given my current end-of-life circumstances, something I could believe in, something smacking of spirituality, tasting of totality, and yet sufficiently innocuous to include whatever persuasion you're persuaded by.

It’s a toast, is what it is. Not rye or wry, though both are quite tasty, especially hot with cream cheese maybe. It’s the word l'Chaim, as celebrated graphically and auditorially below:

Yup. With all the joy that song implies, and all the meanings and occasions that toast celebrates: to life. All of it. The beginning of it. The living of it. Even the end of it.

Try embracing that, bundling it into a toast, a blessing, a wisdom.

I think, now that I think about it, that that’s one of the many revelations that led me to choosing the Expression Swing as my memorial gift to our local park. Seeing a parent and child celebrating a moment of intimate union. Both sharing joy. Celebrating life. O, yes, L'Chaim!

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