Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: The Torah Is About This World

The Torah tells us, "See!  I have set before you today (ie, as clear as day) life and good, death and evil."  (D'varim 30:15)  Seems reasonably straightforward: do good and get rewarded with life, do evil and earn death.  Standard fare for any religion, the bread and butter of morality, so to speak.  Except for a few problems.  First, lots of people do bad stuff and are still alive, and the opposite is also glaringly true.  Beside that problem -- which all the religions of the world address in one way or another, usually with a double portion of gobbledegook (I just looked that up, it is spelled correctly), we have a much bigger problem: our saves throughout the ages have not  explained it that way.

Rashi comments, "each depends on the other: if you do good, you have life, do evil and you have death; as the Torah goes on to explain".  Rashi says that life and good are interlinked, like two sides of one coin; and similarly for death and evil.  The S'porno comes from a different angle: "life" means eternal life (finally... it's about time someone brought that up), "death" means eternal death, "good" means a good life in this oh so transient world, "evil" means the distress of living in this oh so transient world.

Rashi is difficult because there certainly seem to be evil doers who are alive and even the best of the best eventually dies.  S'porno is difficult because, well... really?  Good people have good lives in this world and evil people have awful lives?

Looking carefully, you'll see that both Rashi and S'porno understand that the word "chaim"/life when used by the Torah means nothing but eternal life.  When Rashi says that doing good is equivalent to life he simply means that each mitzvah is actually establishing a nourishing bond between your soul and the Source of Life, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  A fish flapping around on the ground after being pulled from the ocean or a chicken running around after having his head removed both look like they are alive, but they are actually for all intents and purposes dead (their bodies just haven't yet realized that fact).  When a person does evil, he is severing his relationship with the Source of Life... he may look alive while running around, but he is for all intents and purposes dead; his body just doesn't yet realize that fact.

With one more idea, we can understand the S'porno as well.  Us fat, rich Americans tend to equate "good" with "fun".  Who has a good life?  The one having the most fun.  However, as any parent will tell you, having children is one of the most rewarding, important, and good things one can do with one's life.  It is hardly the most fun; in fact, it is often quite the opposite.  As anyone with bad toothache will tell you, a root canal is not fun -- but it is certainly good.  (Any inferred relationship between the fun have having children and the fun of having a root canal is purely intentional.)  The S'porno means that for the person attached to Torah and mitzvos, this oh transient life will be entirely good because every moment will be utilized in making his soul healthy and strong for its eternal life; sometimes it is a hospital, sometimes a gym, sometimes sanatorium -- but always good.  A person who is not; well, no matter how much fun he is having, it is simply the palliative care of a hospice till his body realizes that he is dead.

The coming Day of Judgement is our opportunity to choose life -- real, eternal life -- and all that comes with it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…