Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Moment of Introspection

Today I went to the funeral of a friend's mother.  Funerals are always heart-wrenching, no matter if you know the person who died or not.  I went to support my friend, but even so there's no way around the thoughts that wander around your head while sitting in the pews.

This isn't (unfortunately) my first funeral, and it brought to mind several things.  All of it centered around what we have left at the end of our lives.  No matter if our lives are long or short, we will always be gone "too soon".  Our deeds are all that we have at the end of the day.

Judaism is not an all or nothing religion. It is a realistic religion.  G-d knows who we are as individuals and sees the situations we find ourselves in.  It's the process and progress we make that is the difference.  Working on one mitzvah and being unsuccessful is better than not trying at all.

We will all be gone "too soon".  Not meaning to be depressing here, it's important to take an accounting of our day to day lives.  Sure, we went to work - spent a lot of energy - and came home again.  Did we do something for someone else at any point?  Did we work on improving ourselves at all during that long busy day?

We stumble to the end of the day exhausted.  Looking for a few moments to improve ourselves seems impossible.  But this is not a new problem.  
Hillel said: not say, "When I am free, I will study," for perhaps you will never be free. (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 2:4)
We have to make time for ourselves and others, otherwise there will be no time.  Funerals are a good time, and usually our only time, for introspection, since we lead such hectic, busy lives.  Take a moment to think about your life.  Don't wait for a something as serious as a funeral.  You are a creation.  G-d's creation.  You are also your own creation.  G-d gave you the ability to create yourself.  Who is the person you want to create?  What kind of a person do you want to be at the end of your all "too short" life?  This is your opportunity.
Rabbi Yaakov said: This world is like the antechamber before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the antechamber so that you may enter the banquet hall.  (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 4:16)
What is your mitzvah?  Choose something small that you can handle and stick to it.  There is nothing "minor" about any mitzvah.  Any mitzvah will do.
Rabbi Tarfon said... It is not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it... (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 2:16)
The hardest part is to start.  Start now, don't wait for the opportunity to pass you by.

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