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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Live like you were dying

Sukkah 24


I was finally the husband,
that most the time I wasn't.
And I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all the sudden going fishing,
Wasn't such an imposition.
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.
Well I finally read the good book,
And I took a good long hard look at what I'd do
If I could do it all again.

I went sky diving,
I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I've been denying,
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dying.

Tim McGraw 2004

Are you allowed to construct a sukkah with one wall made from a living animal?  Rabbi Yehudah permits it.  Rabbi Meir prohibits it, either because the animal might run away or because in the middle of the festival it might keel over and die, and you would lose your wall.

The Gemara cites various other examples of situations where we are concerned about death.  For example, if a kohen gives his wife a gett (bill of divorce) that will take effect an hour before he dies she is no longer allowed to partake of the terumah tithes, because he might die within the hour. 

Similarly, if one purchases a flask of wine, not knowing if tithes had been separated, according to Rabbi Meir he may drink the wine on condition that he will leave over enough wine to apportion later for the tithes.  Rabbis Yehudah, Yossi and Shimon demur, concerned for the possibility that the flask might burst before he has the opportunity to offer the tithes.  Or worse yet, what if he dies after drinking but prior to tithing?

One more example: In order to perform the service in the Temple on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) must be married.  Rabbi Yehudah teaches that the Beth Din haGadol (High Court) would arrange for a single lady to be ready to marry him, in the unlikely circumstance that his current wife should die just before Yom Kippur!

Many of us believe that we will live forever.  We allow the days and years to pass by without taking life too seriously.  But our Sages teach us that we must live with the awareness that death “crouches at the door.”  Any moment could be our last. 

The Mishnah teaches us that we must “repent one day before you die.”  The Talmud infers that we must therefore repent every day, because we never know when we will die.  As a result, our rabbis inserted the confession prayer into our daily morning and afternoon services.

When you “live like you were dying,” your life looks very different.  You treat people differently.  You take matters more seriously.  You live a life with focus and direction, wherein every moment counts. 


May you live till 120!  But may you treat every moment of your life with the care and consideration as if it were the last.  Then you will truly have a life of meaning and purpose.