Reality to a Finality?

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: Is there a reality to finality? We pray daily, to Hashem, “Please do not make our life’s efforts be in vain.” We also experience daily negative input from life’s experiences, for example, “Man plans, and G-d laughs!” and when we study King Solomon’s Koheles, “All is futile!” We are constantly made aware: no one has ever come back from the deceased! This awareness has instilled into mans’ psyche the “finality” of death. How do we overcome all these negative inputs which we observe through our lives? And as we get older,“the Promise of the Future” wanes.

 How can a  person who has just lost a close friend or relative, and surmises he might be next, and has become spiritually distraught, overcome their “down” state of mind , and keep from focusing on nothingness? Mans’ natural instincts, especially “the delusion of personal invulnerability” removes his focus on his own death to focus on something else. So the important idea here is, what should man train himself to focus on? 

Answer by Rabbi S.R.Hirsch:  “People who have lost their raison d’etre of their lives can find it again in the bond of the Community.” Can you explain this? Rabbi S.R.Hirsch's additional answer (Horeb, Chapter 43, Edoth. page 214): “and if He takes away, recognize in the taking, as in the giving, the same loving Fatherly hand, and with what is left to you, in whatever condition you may be, rise to live fulfilling the will of G-d, pursuing it and blessing Him, until He calls you away to another existence, and to a new life.”

What counter-thoughts, understanding, Torah Concepts, should we lean on, when we experience these negative , depressing, hopeless thoughts of “nothingness”? Is there a reality to finality?

Rabbi: Rabbi Hirsch's words, “People who have lost their raison d’etre of their lives can find it again in the bond of the Community” mean that self worth is found when we view ourselves as part of the Jewish people. When our sense of purpose is not tied to our subjective plans, or our small or meaningless involvements, but to the purpose of the Jewish people – a nation that possesses God's words and whose role is to educate the world – we find great purpose.  

The Rabbis taught, God said concerning Creation, that it is "good", so King Solomon cannot contradict God. King Solomon’s “All is futile!” refers only to the life where one pursues the physical as an end in itself, as taught by a wise Rabbi. However, as a means to a Torah life, all is certainly good. 

Regarding the human condition of death, this too must be a good, and the Rabbis actually say God's sentiment in Genesis of "it is good" refers to the day of death. In the future, the Rabbis say we will no longer feel negative about death. When hearing of one who passed on, we will stop reciting the current "Baruch Dayan Emes" (blessed is the true Judge, thereby accepting His decree of death) but we will recite "Baruch Hatove U'Mativ; blessed is the One Who is good and does good" – no longer viewing it as unavoidable justice, but as true positive. The reason we currently do not view death as a positive is not based in wisdom. Our distorted world is attached to the physical, so the end of our physical existence is viewed with great sorrow. But with his arrival, the Messiah will teach the world God's truths, enlightening mankind, including the positive nature of the soul's state after death, where our existence will be even greater, more closely bound to God and His wisdom. The Rabbis actually anticipated death, for they knew they would be perceiving great wisdom and reaping their reward for a Torah life.

If now, we immerse ourselves in what King Solomon teaches is the greatest command – Torah study – we can, even now, experience the great level of enjoyment derived from this pursuit. Study is the greatest pursuit, and not without good reason. That being the greatest pleasure a human being can experience.  But one steeped in the physical life may not find these words alone convincing. 

If we care about our one existence, if we care about an eternity more than a temporal Earthly stay; if we are convinced that the afterlife can be a great experience, then we are wise to follow the advice of the greatest minds, our numerous Rabbis, who urge our immersion in Torah study. King Solomon tested all lifestyles and pursuits, yet concluded that the Torah life is most cherished. And he was a man to whom God granted miraculous wisdom. 

We should immediately change the course of our lives, invest greater time in Torah study than other pursuits, and we will attest to the truth of the Rabbis' words. We will begin to view all other pursuits as meaningless, and recognize greater and greater wisdom as our studies progress. We will abandon the accumulation of objects that we cannot take with us, and the chase for fame. And we will desire to invest in our eternal afterlife, the state of existence that is purely spiritual, where only our minds continue on. We will abandon all things temporal, desiring only that which is eternal.

Is there a reality to finality? No. There is no finality. Death is the beginning of something quite grand, something we must anticipate!