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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.

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