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Monday, 9 November 2015

The Meaning of Life

Daf Yomi Sotah 14

What is the meaning of life?  Let us return to the creation story for some fascinating insight.

On the first day, G-d created the dog and said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of 20 years.”
The dog replied, “That's a long time to be barking. How about only 10 years and I'll give you back the other 10?” And G-d agreed.

On the second day, G-d created the monkey and said, “Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a 20-year life span.”
The monkey replied, “Monkey tricks for 20 years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back 10 like the dog did?" And G-d agreed.

On the third day, G-d created the cow and said, “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of 60 years.”
The cow replied, “That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for 60 years. How about 20 and I'll give back the other 40?” And G-d agreed again.

On the fourth day, G-d created man and said, “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you 20 years.”
But man said, “Only 20 years? Could you possibly give me my 20, the 40 the cow gave back, the 10 the monkey gave back, and the 10 the dog gave back – that makes 80, okay?”
“Fine,” replied G-d, “as long as you're sure.”

So that is why for our first 20 years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next 40 years we slave in the sun to support our family.  The next 10 years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last 10 years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
And that, my friends, is the meaning of life. Now you know.

Seriously, though, why indeed are we here?  Why did G-d create this universe?  What is the purpose of it all?  What is the meaning of life?

Rabbi Chama son of Rabbi Chanina taught: What is the meaning of the verse, “You shall walk after Hashem, your G-d?” Is it possible for a human being to walk after the Divine?  Has it not been stated, “For Hashem your G-d is a devouring fire?”  Rather, the meaning is to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He.

 Just like He clothes the naked, as it is written, “And Hashem G-d made for Adam and his wife coats of skin, and clothed them,” so should you also clothe the naked. The Holy One, blessed be He, visited the sick, as it is written, “And Hashem appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre,” and you too should visit the sick. The Holy One, blessed be He, comforted mourners, as it is written, “And it came to pass after the death of Avraham, that G-d blessed Isaac his son,” so too should you comfort mourners. The Holy one, blessed be He, buried the dead, as it is written, “And He buried him in the valley,” so you too should bury the dead.

Some religions preach that only specific mortal individuals may become Divine beings.  They are described as divine incarnations in this world, in some way, shape or form.  Or alternatively, they are prophets, who alone have the ability to communicate with Heaven and perform miracles.

Judaism teaches that every individual has the ability to be Divine.  When we emulate G-d, we join the Divine system.  What is the meaning of it all?  G-d created this world, because He is good.  But one cannot be good in a vacuum.  When all there was, was G-d, how could He be good?  Good is not an adjective, it is a verb.  You are good when you do good. 

And so He created the universe to bestow His goodness upon His creatures.  And so when we do good in this world, we are fulfilling His dreams.  We are becoming partners with Him in His Divine plan.  We are allowing G-d, who is good, to do good, and therefore ultimately to be good!  That is the ultimate purpose of life, to bestow goodness on G-d’s creations!

Particularly at this time of year, there is even greater need than ever to ‘clothe the naked,’ those that cannot afford the necessary clothing to shield themselves from the cold.  Beth Israel once again has partnered with the United Way to provide coats for those in need.  Please look through your closet and find something you can give away, as you walk in the Almighty’s footsteps, so to speak.

And, while many of us visit the sick year-round, the Beth Israel family has taken it upon itself to spread the light this upcoming Chanukah.  Following our Chanukah Bowl celebration, we will split up into teams and visit hospitals and senior residences throughout Edmonton, once again following in the Almighty’s footsteps, and becoming partners with Him in the purpose of creation.  To take part in leading these Divine initiatives, please speak to the office or programming committee.

You contain within you a neshama (soul), a portion of the Divine.  When you walk in His ways, you become one with Him.  May you merit carrying out your mission on Earth and fulfilling His purpose of creation!

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