Am Chai: What Does It Mean?



by Rabbi Jen Gubitz

What exactly does it mean that “Am Yisrael Chai” – the People of Israel live?

Perhaps it is a song of joy and relief! The People of Israel Live – because there were times when our living, when our survival was unclear.

Perhaps it is a refrain of power and dominion! The People of Israel Live – because for only 64 years have we had a modern land to call our own, sustaining our survival.

What exactly does it mean that “Am Yisrael Chai” – the People of Israel live?

Perhaps it is a chorus of clarity and crisp purpose. The People of Israel Live – in order to bring healing and justice to the world.

And perhaps it is a prayerful prediction – that the People of Israel should always live… and should always feel enlivened.

But it is not only about our people and our lives, for in this three word utterance, we, Yisrael, are bookended by Am and Chai.

Our people value life – all life – above all else.

So what exactly does it mean that “Am Yisrael Chai” – the People of Israel live?

Perhaps it is a song, a refrain, a chorus, a prayer – that Israel, her inhabitants, her neighbors, and those on all sides who crave peace, should live, not in bomb shelters, but in a sukkah of shalom, a shelter of peace.

Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shlomecha… O source of shelters, O source of peace, we pray for the safety of everyone in this fractured land, and we pray that Am Yisrael Chai – that the People of Israel Live and that All People Live together in enduring peace.

Rabbi Jen Gubitz is the assistant rabbi at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, MA. She loves creating new liturgical language to help people connect to Jewish prayer in relevant and meaningful ways.

Originally posted at Peace Will Come: A Year of Praying for Israel

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