3-½ minutes to read
Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Re’eh – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Though not obsessed with it, I’ll confess death scares me a little. Do you know what it means that your soul will spend eternity close to G-d (a.k.a. heaven) or far from Him (a.k.a. hell)? Me either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to avert death forever? But Parshas Re’eh insists we confront it, every day:
“See, I place before you today, a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 11:26)
This Sabbath’s parsha reveals G-d’s blessing and curse. It describes the holiness of the Land of Israel. Then Moses explains more about how the Children of Israel must conduct themselves there. He spells out what to do with a false prophet and a person who entices another to go astray. The Israelites learn what it means to be G-d’s treasured people. Finally, the Torah teaches about tithes, forgiving loans, generosity, how to treat a slave, and the three pilgrimage festivals.
How Curse Equals Death
In the eponymous book of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites if they listen to G-d they will eat well. But, if they rebel they’ll be “devoured by the sword.” So good equals nourishment and bad equals death? That seems out of balance. But when you think about it, we often equate being hungry to dying. Ever said you were starved?
But even when full, you may be dying. Or perhaps more accurately, you’re killing yourself.
While still in the womb, you get a glimpse of your potential greatness. You don’t consciously remember it after you’re born. But the potential exists within your spirit. During life, your body and spirit are joined. You have the opportunity to live out your potential. How you do so determines whether each day life conquers death or vice versa.
Use Your Spirit to Avert Death
Have you ever watched a thoroughbred race? Four centuries of careful breeding have created animals that appear to sprint even when standing still. A thoroughbred’s body and spirit connect most deeply during the 30 seconds of racing. You can almost feel its joy as it flies down the track. Despite the danger, you see life defeating death as the horse displays the greatness to which it was born.
So it is sad to see a thoroughbred that can no longer run. Though it may live many more years, each day that passes is one where death conquers life.
Like the thoroughbred, you were born for distinction. The potential encoded into your spirit will lead you to a pinnacle. Unlike the horse, your life purpose isn’t obvious. The difficulty lies in figuring it out. You’re on track when you:
- Engage your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t need to be in the clergy for your work to connect spiritually. Rather, you must invest your passion in what you do. For that matter, your life purpose may be an avocation. Your work may just be what you have to do to get the resources to trek your path to greatness.
- Serve your fellow human beings. Google and Coca-Cola make as big a contribution to humanity as any non-profit. Without the support of a vibrant business sector, charities couldn’t survive. Your attitude toward serving trumps where you serve.
- Connect with G-d most deeply. It may seem you’ll get closest to the Creator in a house of worship. Periodically you need the distraction-free environment. But if you find your most direct connection with G-d some other place you’ve got a clue about your life purpose.
Beyond these three qualities lies a universe of possibilities. One of my friends finds the Almighty in his lab. Another finds Him in the caves and wrecks where he and his family scuba dive. Yet another finds G-d in the early morning hours poring over words of Aramaic in the Talmud. Only one of them makes a living pursuing the greatness instilled in him in utero.
If you found your life purpose and each day finds you striving for it, congratulations! Every day you conquer death. If you’re still searching for your path to greatness, likewise you’re winning the daily battle of life versus death. You need have no fear that one day your body and spirit will separate. From what I’ve learned you’ll hardly notice. You’ve lived your life connected to its essence. You may regret leaving your loved ones. But you’ll have created an immortal memory.
Each day you decline to strive toward your life purpose, I’m sorry to tell you death rules your life. And you are the executioner. By failing to seek out the potential for greatness instilled in you, you make your life meaningless. You have chosen to be like the thoroughbred that can no longer run.
But no matter how many days you have let slip by, tomorrow, today, this minute you can flip the death life equation around. Examine the three qualities above. Reach out to loved ones. Take up the search again. Though you may feel like a pursuer of impossible dreams, you’ll be alive. In fact, you’ll avert death virtually forever.
How have you striven to find your life purpose? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!