Quantcast

Jewish Journal

Thoughts about death and living life -by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

February 23, 2012 | 8:13 am

One of my favorite stories is one told of a great rabbi and mystic who lived several centuries ago, Rabbi Menachem Mendal of Kotzk.  He asked his students, “What would you do if you knew you had only one more week to live?”  The first answered, “I would spend it with my family,” another said, “I would spend it doing mitzvoth, good acts of kindness,”  a third said” I would spend it studying Torah, meditating and praying.”  Then they turned to Rabbi Menachem Mendal and asked him, rabbi, “and what would you do?”  Answered the rabbi, “I would do what I do every day.” 

I have often wondered what it would be like to know I was dying.  We all are, you know.  Religion runs the risk of missing this.  Often it either focuses on a different world after death, and so misses the impact of living here and now in a way informed by the reality of our death, or fixated on how to perform the details of this life, its proscriptions, beliefs and rituals, shrinking the space humans have in which to sit back and really feel the great reality of death; that we are dying and on some level, for even the most profound believer, death brings with it annihilation, nonbeing as we know it. 

Some will instinctively dismiss this notion with, “yes, but for a better life with God.”  Perhaps, but even if that is so, if we do not give ourselves the opportunity to know we are dying, to feel the dread of oblivion first, then we have ignored an important gift.  Being human, truly being present in the here and now, means knowing we will cease to be.  Many deny death, ignore death in these and other much more superficial ways, but to live in a state of avoidance is perhaps to not really live. 

How would you live if you knew we are dying?  (Which again I remind you, we are.)  What regrets do you have?  What changes can be made?  What letters written?  What experiences had?  What really is meaningful and what is not?  Why are we here?  What is my unique place and mission in this mysterious, but I believe meaningful, world?

Tracker Pixel for Entry

COMMENTS

We welcome your feedback.

Privacy Policy
Your information will not be shared or sold without your consent. Get all the details.

Terms of Service
JewishJournal.com has rules for its commenting community.Get all the details.

Publication
JewishJournal.com reserves the right to use your comment in our weekly print publication.

ADVERTISEMENT
PUT YOUR AD HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

{blog_image:alt}

Our Orthodox Rabbis and an Orthodox Maharat writing about how they see Judaism, Israel, the Jewish People and our world.

Rabbi Hyim Shafner is the Rabbi of Bais Abraham...

Read more