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When does life begin?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

In the Torah portion we just read on Shabbat, both Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu pass away after a lifetime of intense activity. Rabbi Yoel Spitz was reminded this week of what he heard in 10th grade from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz on the subject of time management:

"A student once asked the rabbi how what we study in high school is supposed to prepare us for life. The moment the words 'prepare us for life' were uttered, a spark lit up in the rabbi's eys and he said:

'Look, your question is built on the widespread notion that school prepares you for life. But I want to ask you: When exactly will the 'life' - for which you are preparing - begin?' The students answered that perhaps after leaving yeshiva, or after their wedding, or after going out to work. The rabbi listened and said: 'If you will sit back and wait for life to begin, you will never experience life. At every stage you will discover that you just want to finish that stage and only then begin 'life'. Very quickly you will find yourselves with children as you try to prepare them for their 'life', and at the age of 60 you will suddenly miss when you were 30 and the 'life' you had in those days.

So it would be worthwhile for you to understand and internalize the idea that it makes no sense to wait for life to start. Life is happening now. Everything happening to you is life. A person needs to live each moment as if this moment - whether difficult, or beautiful, or neutral - is what life is all about.'"

In conclusion, Rabbi Yoel writes: "On that same day, it was as though a lens upon my heart - through which I had seen the world - fell off. I left the classroom and said to myself: This is life! Immediately a new insight arrived: I must decide what I am doing with it. Not later, not tomorrow, but right now, this very moment."


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