All is well that ends well?
“Then Yisrael said to Yosef, ‘I am about to die; but Hashem will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers.’” (Bereishis 48:21
We have all heard it said that “is well that ends well”. Yaakov’s life ended well. Yaakov definitely had his share of difficulties to deal with. But the midrash tells us that the final 17 years of his life were good. Although he was not in the land of Yisrael, he had peace during these final years in Egypt. He had his family near, his whole family, and he was able to study Torah daily with Yosef’s son Ephraim.
“Life passes like a shadow, but not like the shadow of a solid wall or a firm anchored tree. It passes like the shadow of a fleeting bird – it comes and it goes. We all know that we will not live forever. We acknowledge verbally that we are all mortal and must one day die. But we act as if death will not strike us. Our forefathers were forever conscious that they were only sojourners in this world, placed here for a mere seventy years. They spent their lives preparing for the world-to-come because they lived with the reality of death. They clearly stated that they would eventually die.” (The Midrash Says, Bereishis, Page 439)
The midrash teaches that each of the Avot asked Hashem for one specific favor. Avraham asked for white hair and wrinkles, signs of aging. Prior to Avraham no one aged physically. Everyone appeared to be the same age. Therefore, it was difficult to know who was wiser, who had the test of time, and who should be honored. Yitzchak asked for pain. He realized that if we did not suffer pain in this world, we would have to suffer greater pain in Gehenom, therefore he suffered from blindness. And Yaakov asked that one might become ill prior to death, so that he would have time to put his affairs in order. Time to bless his children and give them final counsel, as Yaakov did in this week’s parsha and David did in this week’s haftarah.
If we were given the opportunity to make a request of Hashem, one that we knew He would grant, what would it be? I doubt many of us would think to ask for wrinkles and grey hair, or pain, or illness. We are usually more inclined to ask for the fountain of youth, and a pain-free, healthy life. We dream of dying in our sleep at a ripe-old age, without having to suffer. Sounds nice, but is it really?
Let’s be real for just a minute. Here is the FACT:
- We are all going to die a physical death. End of story!
And because we are all sinners (we have all fallen short of G-d’s glory), and we know that no sin goes unpunished, we must realize that there will be consequences for our sins. The suffering we bring upon ourselves, has to be paid at some point by someone! That is Divine justice 101.
So, armed with this information, what are we going to do with it? How should this knowledge change the way we live our lives? It seems to me that this knowledge should have a much more, profound impact than it usually does.
“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”
This seems to be the motto for most of the world. They too realize that they are doomed. They are going to die, and they can do nothing to stop it. So, they feel it is their duty to enjoy as much of this life as they possibly can before death comes calling. The problem with that is so easy to see, that I am confused as to why we are too often blind to reality. The rate of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, and depression &/or mental health issues among the rich and famous is staggering. And yet society still admires the rich and famous. Why? Because we have lost sight of what really matters. If our wealth and our fame is not used for eternal purposes, it has no real value. One does not need to have an abundance of money to be truly wealthy. And one does not need to be the leading actress in a major motion picture to be truly famous.
Let me ask you a simple question. How do you know that you exist? It is not enough to derive the knowledge of our existence from the fact that you are alive, because one does not have to be alive in order to exist. Can you identify direct proof (not indirect) that you exist?
“One who is conscious of his existence has a basis for reaching an awareness of Hashem, but we rarely access the potential of this consciousness. We are too often disconnected from our inner selves. The basis of our souls is self-awareness, and to really use our souls properly, we must become more self-aware. Without self-awareness, a connection to our root, our spiritual growth is limited.” (excerpts from “Getting to Know Your Soul: The Gateway to Understanding Your Personality” Bilvavi Books)
If we really want to grow spiritually, and improve our proximity to Hashem, then we are going to have to become more self-aware. We are a Neshamah that happens to be housed in a physical body for a short period of time. Yet, we too often live as if this body and this physical existence are the whole point. NOT! This body will die! And yet it is the Neshamah that lives on. It is the Neshamah that should receive the majority of our time and energy, not the body. But, unfortunately, that is usually switched around.
This is not about being morbid or negative. This is about being real. And in being real, I pray that we can use the knowledge of our impending death, as a conduit for spiritual growth. We are only here for a short time, and it is a guarantee that we will suffer during that short time. So, may we realize that there is a point to all suffering in this world and remain focused on Hashem and fulfilling His will (that His will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven). This world is so very important, as it is the only chance we have to use our free will to serve Hashem and earn our place in the world to come. There is no free will, no mitzvot, no suffering to overcome in Olam Haba (the world to come). We have only the here and now to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Whether we are aware of it or not, how we live our lives now will determine the quality of our life in Olam Haba. There’s no time to waste! May we use the time we are given wisely!
“As for me, nearness to Hashem is good; I have made Hashem my refuge, that I may recount all Your works.” Tehillim 73:28
I think it is important to note that this portion begins with the words “vayechi Yaakov” which literally means “and Yaakov lived”. Although we think we are reading about Yaakov’s death, we are actually learning what it means to live. May you live this life to its fullest, so that you may experience Olam Haba to its fullest!
Ladies, why should we settle for the nose bleed section if we can have front row seats?
Be blessed and be a blessing,