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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Better than yesterday, not as good as tomorrow

Daf Yomi Sanhedrin 98

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi found Eliyahu the prophet, standing at the entrance of the cave of Rabbi Shimon ben Yocḥai. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to him, “Will I be privileged to enter the World-to-Come?”
Eliyahu replied, “If Hashem should so will.”
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to Eliyahu, “When will the Moshiach come?”
Eliyahu said to him, “Go ask him.”
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked, “Where is he?”
Eliyahu replied, “At the entrance of the city of Rome.”
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked him, “How do I recognize him?”
Eliyahu answered, “He sits among the poor who suffer from illnesses.  All of them untie their bandages and tie them all at once, but the Moshiach unties one bandage and ties one at a time. He says: Perhaps I will be needed to serve to bring about the redemption. Therefore, I will never tie more than one bandage, so that I will not be delayed.”

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi went to find Moshiach. He said to Moshiach, “Shalom to you, my rabbi and my teacher.”
Moshiach said to him, “Shalom to you, bar Leva’i.”
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to him, “When will the Master come?”
Moshiach responded, “Today!”

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi returned to Eliyahu. Eliyahu said to him, “What did Moshiach say to you?”
He said to Eliyahu, “Moshiach said: Shalom to you, bar Leva’i.”
Eliyahu said to him, “He thereby guaranteed that you and your father will enter the World-to-Come, as he greeted you with shalom.”
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to Eliyahu, “The Moshiach lied to me, as he said: I am coming today, and he did not come.”
Eliyahu said to him, “This is what he said to you: He said that he will come ‘today, if you will listen to His voice.’”

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev was once sitting at a tish (Hasidic gathering) with his chasidim, when he turned his eyes heavenward and cried out, “Today, if you will listen to G-d’s voice?  What kind of an answer is that?  Obviously, if we do teshuva (repent), Moshiach will come!”

What exactly was Moshiach’s message to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, when he told him he was coming ‘today’?  He was telling him that when we develop a ‘Today!’ attitude to life, Moshiach will come.  A ‘Today!’ attitude sees life as urgent and critical, treating each day as if it were the only day of the rest of your life.

I recently asked a friend how he was doing and he replied, ‘Better than yesterday, not as good as tomorrow.’  Unfortunately, that’s how most people live their lives.  The problem, though, is that when we constantly look to tomorrow as the better day, we risk falling short on fulfilling our potential today.

Imagine you lived your life like today was the last day – not because we’re expecting tragedy to strike tomorrow but because Moshiach could arrive at any second!  Who would you forgive and make amends with?  How would your relationship with the Almighty look? 

Would it be one last football game you couldn’t miss out on watching? Or would it be one last dinner you spent with your family?  Would it be one last golf game before we are whisked off to Israel?  Or one last page of Gemara you learned?

Some things can wait till tomorrow.  Others can’t.  Moshiach sat there at the gates, careful not to change his bandages all at once, just in case he’d suddenly be called upon to lead the way to redemption.  A ‘Today!’ attitude means thinking about all the things you are currently engaged in and weighing up what business could be left unfinished and what ‘bandages need to be wrapped up’ if Moshiach were to suddenly appear.

An old adage goes, ‘Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the present.’  May you live today as the best day of your life!