What does it mean to ‘Live Life to the Fullest?’
It takes some a near-death experience to realize just how fragile and uncertain our lives really are. There are also those so preoccupied with questions of existentialism, they can’t revert their focus to everyday reality.
The Hassidic Masters taught us that each soul that comes down to the physical realms is a reincarnation from previous generations, and that its purpose in the lower spheres is to effect a correction. For each individual, this involves a different character trait that the previous reincarnation did not succeed in mastering.
The fact that The Almighty allows a soul to enact sometimes multiple tikkunim – corrections – is a testament to His loving kindness and synonymous in many respects to the process of t’shuva – atonement. Whereas an individual can affect t’shuva in the physical world, a gilgul – reincarnation – is meant to allow one’s soul to be cleansed in time for the coming of the Moshiach and the final correction.
This is a very surface-level explanation of mystical ideas our sages spent the entirety of their lives trying to grasp, but what does it mean for us? What does it mean for those trying to delve into the meaning of life and not finding a suitable solution to age-old questions of existence? How do we improve our everyday lives based on these teachings?
The following are some of the central points we may glean from the wisdom of Chassidut. Notice how each one is intrinsically connected to the others:
- Firstly, we must come to the realization that we owe a debt of gratitude to the three forces responsible for our (temporary) presence here: our parents and G-d. We must therefore live life according to the principles He has bestowed upon us in His Torah by emulating the Almighty.
- We need to try and live life to the fullest. This is far removed from the accepted moral norms of Western society according to which each individual is free to act as they please, indulging their physical senses with no regard for moral and ethical standards as prescribed by our 3,500 year-old tradition. What it does mean, is that we should strive to fulfill as many commandments as possible, thereby becoming vessels for G-d’s infinite mercy and reaching proximity to the Almighty. The fact that human life involves a great amount of instability and unpredictability underscores the value of every second at our disposal.
- We must strive to use our physical and spiritual resources to do G-d’s bidding in this world, in so doing, exerting a positive influence on our surroundings and spreading the light of Torah and mitzvot wherever we go.
Every action, be it physical or spiritual, has a counter reaction. As G-d’s Chosen People, we must always remember that not only do our actions and speech matter, but that our thoughts also have an immeasurable effect on the world around us, as well as the higher spheres of creation.
There are two sets of commandments: those between man and G-d, and those between man and his fellow human beings. Those directed at our fellow humans carry greater significance. This is because The Almighty bestowed the ultimate kindness upon Man, creating us in His image and providing us with free will. The fact that we’re here despite The Creator being perfect in every way with or without us means His love for us surpasses that of a parent towards their offspring. He created us purely out of His loving kindness. There was “nothing in it” for Him. We can deduce from this that humans are the pinnacle of G-d’s creations and that He intends the best for us.
We’re commanded to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” A common mistake people make is placing the entirety of the focus on the “thy neighbor” part, completely ignoring “thyself,” whereas in Judaism, the bulk of the weight is on appreciating ourselves as much as we love our fellow man.
One of the central components of loving our fellow man is judging him favorably. It is incumbent upon us to act, speak, and think well of others. By performing mitzvot we will be able to come closer to the Almighty. Treating our fellow man with abundant kindness, forgiveness, and favorable judgment definitely goes a long way. Treating ourselves with the same respect, dignity and forgiveness as we’d afford those around us is even more important.
To truly live means leading an existence according to the commandments given to us by G-d at Sinai. There are many ways of doing so. Learning to love ourselves not in the sense of greedy, selfish love, but love for the sake of doing G-d’s bidding is a good starting point.
Hope you enjoyed this d’var, and are able to internalize, and carry it out in your everyday life. Greetings from Jerusalem!