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Thought for the Day: The Soul Is Learning to Live Forever in This World

Even if you haven't learned ישעיהו (and, I mean, who has?), you may know the following incident in the life of חִזְקִיָּהוּ, the righteous king of the kingdom of Yehuda who turned the kingdom around after the reign of his evil father אחז.  The king became deathly ill and Yerushalyim was surrounded by סַנְחֵרִיב, the Assyrian king who had never lost a campaign.  ישעיהו came to חִזְקִיָּהוּ to deliever a prophecy that he was going to die because he had failed to fulfill the mitzvah of having children.  Long story   short, חִזְקִיָּהוּ did t'shuva, was miraculously restored to health, and the entire army of סַנְחֵרִיב was miraculously destroyed over night.  חִזְקִיָּהוּ was overwhelmed with gratitude and published a letter of thanks and praise for HaShem.  In the midst of that letter, you will find this cryptic verse about how he felt at the height of his sickness when death seemed certain:
ישעיהו פרק לח
יא: אָמַרְתִּי לֹא-אֶרְאֶה יָהּ, יָהּ בְּאֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים; לֹא-אַבִּיט אָדָם עוֹד, עִם-יוֹשְׁבֵי חָדֶל.
I said, “I will not see the Lord Himself in the land of the living; no longer will I look on my fellow man, or be with those who now dwell in this world." (Isaiah 38:11)
The phrase אֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים/land of the living, of course, is appellation for עולם הבא/the World to Come, the world that is beyond death and therefore is the land of real, everlasting living.  Why, then, would חִזְקִיָּהוּ be worried that if he had died then he would not see HaShem?!  Don't we all expect to only see HaShem in עולם הבא?  Also, why the plaintive cry that he would no longer see his fellow man, nor be with others who dwell in this world?  On its own, I would have pegged that as obvious; but in the context of the beginning of the verse, now seems very cryptic.

While I was contemplating all this, I received a text message that contained a scan of a short story my one of my grandsons (you can see it also, if you like: Planet Henoch).  He travels to planet (spelled "plan it")  Henoch, where he needs a special oxygen suit, then looks around and sees his face everywhere.  Then he gets back in the ship to go home to tell his friends.

Aha and zounds!  The neshama comes into this world and needs to dress in a special suit (the body).  What does it see wherever it turns?
משלי כז:יט
כַּמַּיִם, הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים, כֵּן לֵב-הָאָדָם, לָאָדָם.
Just as water reflects a face back to you, so too the heart of a person to his friend. (Mishlei 27:19)

We are in this world to build a relationship with HaShem, we do that by seeing ourselves reflected in those around us.  A Jew doesn't leave this world to "meet his Maker"... a Jew enters this world to meet and build a relationship with his Maker.  It is in this world that we really learn to see and appreciate Hashem.  Note, by they way, that חִזְקִיָּהוּ uses the shortened name for HaShem; which is precisely the entirety that we can see in this world.  When we shuffle off this mortal coil and return home, we'll see all our friends with whom we together built that relationship.  We'll dance and rejoice around the Divine Presence that we will finally recognize in it's entirety according to the work we have done in this world to build that relationship.

You think I could have gotten that understanding without see and reading my grandson's story (illustrated, no less)?  You get your inspiration your way, I'll get mine my way.


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