Daf Yomi Bava Basra 15
With his family and close talmidim (students) gathered by his bedside, the Vilna Gaon lay ready to die. Suddenly, he grabbed his tzitzis and began sobbing uncontrollably.
“What is it, Rebbe?” they asked.
“Soon I will pass to the next world, where I will be powerless,” responded Rabbi Eliyahu. “In this world, for just a few kopeks one can purchase the right to embrace the Shechina (Divine)!”
The Torah states, “And Moshe, the servant of Hashem, died there.” How could Moshe have written, “And Moshe died there?” Rather, until that point, Moshe wrote. From then on, Yehoshua wrote. This is the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, and some say Rabbi Nechemiah.
Rabbi Shimon said to him: Could the original Sefer Torah have been deficient even a single letter? Behold, it is written, “Take this Sefer Torah!” Rather, up until that point, the Holy One blessed be He would dictate and Moshe would repeat and transcribe. From that point on, the Holy One blessed be He would dictate and Moshe transcribed with tears.
Moshe wasn’t crying because he was scared of death. He knew full well that he was destined for Gan Eden (Heaven). What brought him to tears was the same understanding that moved the Vilna Gaon. In this world, every moment is precious beyond pearls. The second you pass over into the next world, you become powerless. As Hashem dictated, Moshe recognized the short window of opportunity he had remaining to accomplish maximum efficiency.
In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), Rabbi Yaakov teaches: “One moment of teshuvah and good deeds in this world is greater than all of the life in the World to Come.” Why? Isn’t Heaven meant to be ‘out-of-this-world’?! Of course, it’s eternal bliss! But you’re static once you get there. Here, in this world, is where we experience challenges and so here’s where it counts when we beat those challenges and overcome those obstacles.
That’s why we, as Torah Jews, could never contemplate hastening death even when physical pain is unbearable. No matter how tough it is, every moment is precious. It might be one more time you get to put on tefillin or one more time you get to light Shabbos candles (even if that means making a blessing over an electric lamp on your hospital bedside table). It might be a simple kind word you utter when someone comes to visit you. Or it might even be a good and pure thought that crosses your mind, which you stop to think about. Every mitzvah, whether in action, speech, or thought, has infinite consequences in the spiritual realms. But you can only do that from here in this physical world.
Now if that’s true of one who is already at the later stages of their life, just think how much you can achieve at this juncture! Every action you take, every smile you create, every good thought you precipitate, moves worlds! If you were given a finite amount of time to spend in the king’s treasury gathering up gold, silver and jewellery, you would grab everything in sight!
Well, guess what? You are in the King’s treasury. Every mitzvah you grab will make you eternally rich beyond your wildest imagination! Don’t let a moment go unaccounted for!
One day you will look back and wonder where all the time went. How you got distracted in the treasury. May you maximize your precious moments in this short lifetime!