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During the עשרת ימי תשובה we make insertions into the שמונה עשרה, each of which contains the word לחיים, meaning "for life."

What is the source for insisting on pronouncing it "zachrenu l'chayim," "uch'sov l'chayim," etc. (with a schwa) instead of "lachayim" (with a patach) in each case?

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Apparently the first one who discusses this is Maharam Rothenburg, cited in Tur, Orach Chaim 582. His reasoning is that "lachayim" could be misunderstood as two words, "la chayim," meaning "no life" (and he analogizes it to a statement in the Gemara, Nedarim 11a, about "lachullin" being possibly misinterpreted in the same way).

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Usually it's just "l'chayim", meaning "for life." "Lachaim" would mean "for the life." When is it used that way?

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    In Isaiah 4:3 we find it with a patach. But also, after all, we use the definite article elsewhere in these prayers, for example "bachayim." And so apparently the older nusach - which Maharam Rothenburg argued against - indeed had "lachayim." – Alex Sep 12 '10 at 17:40
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    It seems that chayim requires the definite article from the other two attestations of it in the first insertion: בחיים and החיים. – WAF Sep 12 '10 at 17:41

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