Quantity or Quality – Chaim Arukim or Aruchim?!
In the blessing for the new month, the Birkat HaChodesh prayer, we ask God to grant us “חיים ארוכים, lives of peace, of goodness, of blessing, of prosperity…”
What does חיים ארוכים mean?
Most translated siddurim, including the US Artscroll, the UK Singers/Authorised Daily Prayer Book and the Israeli Rinat Yisrael Siddur, read this phrase as Chaim AruKim, meaning “long life.”
Grammatically, it has been argued that even though the word appears to be vocalized as Aruchim, its correct pronunciation is actually Arukim. Long in Hebrew is aroch, which is properly vocalized as ארך, without the vav. When the word is written without vowels, as it was done for hundreds of years, a vav (the shuruk vowel) is added after the resh to help with reading (as with the word צהוב), but not as a proper vowel – officially there is no vav there. The proper vowel should in fact be a kubbutz under the resh (as in צהבים – pronounced Tzehubim).
Other siddurim, including the Israeli Koren Siddur, vowelize the phrase as Chaim AruCHim, meaning “healthful life,” as in the phrase ve-ha’ale arucha u’marpe (“Bring a cure and healing”), in some versions of the Refaeinu blessing, or Ta’ale arucha le’aleh nidaf (“Bring a cure to Israel that fears every rustling leaf”) in the Yom Kippur Ma’ariv prayer.
In the context of the Birkat HaChodesh prayer, this second understanding seems to be particularly logical: we beseech God to make the new month “a new period for us of well-being and blessing” (i.e. quality), similar to the reference to “perfect health” at the end of the prayer; whereas according to the first possibility (the quantitative approach), reference to “long life” would deviate from the other requests in the blessing, relating as it does to life beyond the coming month.
May we all merit to have a life both of quantity (Arukim) and quality (Aruchim)!