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Thought for the Day: Three Main Highways Out of the World and Toward Oblivion

As the old joke goes, I'd rather die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather than screaming in terror like his passengers.  On the surface, that probably sounds like a good idea.  On the other hand, this world is nothing more than an antechamber to prepare for the olam ha'ba.  It was well worth it for me to go through three months of grueling chemotherapy in order to live a healthy life (17 years so far, bli ayin hara, and counting).  It is all the more so worth whatever might be required in this world to enter into that permanent state of existence healthy and whole.

We are in this world to merit our existence.  We earn that merit by exercising our free will to do the right thing.  In order to be able to freely choose the right thing, there must be temptations to the do the wrong thing.  Any color Model T as long as it's black just isn't a choice.  The Torah ha'K'dosha gives us all the information we need to make informed, correct choices.  Shlomo ha'Melech, as explained by the G"ra, tells us the three main corridors out of this world and to real death.  Don't do these.

The three pathways to death are exemplified by their practitioners, presented in order of increasing evil: the pesi (pei-suf-yud, simpleton), the leitz (lamed-yud-tzadi-sofis, scoffer), and the k'sil (kaf-samech-yud-lamed, fool).

The pesi/simpleton just doesn't want to believe that his strongest and deepest desires are not ok.  It just can't be, reasons the pesi, that HaShem would want me to struggle against my own urges so much; it must really be good.  The pesi is the ultimate "mark"; every conman's delight. The conman's business is to make you believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch, and he can provide it for a small fee.  The yeitzer hara is the ultimate conman; he offers transitory pleasure for the modest fee of eternal death.

The leitz/scoffer doesn't deny the truth of Truth, he just scoffs and makes fun.  His main tool and major pleasure runs from idle chatter ("How about dem bears?") to evil gossip.  The leitz is worse because he can't even claim that he was seduced by physical pleasure.  What's so bad about idle chatter and what's the source of its pleasure?  I believe it is because speech is what makes us uniquely human.  We share every other function and sense with the animals, but only humans speak.  (See Onkelos who translates "breated into the man a living soul" as "made him a speaking being".)  That means that speech was created for no purpose other than k'dushah -- derech eretz, torah, t'fila.  To use speech for idle chatter is worse than using a  giant supercomputer that could solve all of mankind's problems to play video games.  Basically diverting and squandering a powerful ally in our mission in this world to the completely selfish goal of "I can do what I want and You can't stop me".

The k'sil/fool is worst of all.  He is just too lazy to earn his place.  If it isn't handed to him on a silver platter, he doesn't want it.  Worse, if he can't have it, then he doesn't want anyone to have it.  Completely lazy about earning his way, but very energetic is preventing others from earning their own way.  That's what makes him worst of all; not satisfied to ignore HaShem, he must fight against HaShem at all costs.  Even he, unfortunately, doesn't realize the cost.  There are somethings worse than death.

Eternal death, by the way, does not mean oblivion/lack of existence.  It means having enough existence to know that you don't really exist, but could have.  It's seeing everyone else's joy, never being able to feel anything but emptiness and loneliness, and knowing that you chose it.


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