Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

When kid’s ask me questions – it is always fun for me. “Did God create dinosaurs?” “Where do people go when they die?” There’s always a kid, who asks, “What’s the meaning of life?” I love that kid & admire the chutzpah.

In our culture, people are encouraged to reveal every intimate detail of their lives, every personal secret. We’ll listen with rapt intent as strangers recounts their bouts with drugs and drink, infidelities, broken relationships with parents, spouse and children, the bizarre and the spectacular lengths they’ve gone to obtain thrills. That’s permitted. It’s even celebrated. Yet ask “What’s the meaning of your life?” and the conversation stops dead.

Rabbi Michael Gold teaches: “This may be the last taboo. Try dropping my young friend’s question at a cocktail reception or summer BBQ. “So, what’s the meaning of your life?” People will laugh. They think you’re joking. Isn’t that strange?

Don’t we all, at some point, need to ask this question with seriousness and reflection? Why the laughter? Your assignment, stop at a stationery store and pick up a package of 200 4X6 index cards, and a box of pencils. When you return home, find a quiet moment alone, write down on a card all that life has taught you.

In Medieval times, Jews left their children a special will. More than instructions for dividing property, it contained a summary of life’s wisdom. Write one for yourself. To force your concentration, keep it short, no more than an index card. What have you learned from life? From growing up, from school, marriage (and divorce), from raising kids, making a living, building a community, saying goodbye to loved ones? What has life taught you?

It might take a hundred attempts — 100 cards written, then tossed out – to arrive at just the right words. When you arrive at just the right words, cherish that card. Save it, look at it and update it each Rosh Hashanah. You deserve to know the meaning, the lesson, the wisdom, of your life.

Each of us, according to our mystical teaching, carries one word in God’s message to the world. Wouldn’t you like to figure out what your word is? And if anything, God forbid, were to happen to you, wouldn’t you like your children/grandchildren, friends to know?

My young friend is shocked when I answer the question: When God created the world, our world was left unfinished. We are God’s partners, assigned to finish the work of Creation. The world that we encounter is a mixture of chaos and order, of good and evil, of darkness and light. It is our job, as God’s partners, to bring order to the chaos, to bring good out of evil, to cast light into the darkness. There is a corner of the world that only you can fix. You must find that corner, and applying your energies, imagination and intelligence, bring wholeness and healing. In that direction we will find the meaning of our life..

B’vrachot, Blessings,
Rabbi Dennis