I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! — Ecclesiastes 1:13
Growing up, I had a friend who was blessed with parents who could afford to give him everything. From luxurious vacations to multiple maids who served anything he wanted, this boy was the envy of us all. By the time we were driving, he had an Italian sports car while the rest of us were lucky enough if we had a car that ran, if anything at all.
My friend was happy and content with the life he had been given. He went on enjoying life, having a blast through college and beyond. And then everything changed when he began medical school. My friend described to me how the first time he peeled back the sheets of a cadaver he was about to study, he was hit with the most powerful question of life.
Until that moment, my friend hadn’t thought much about God, purpose, or even the fact that every life has an end. The deceased man lying before him had been young. All of the sudden this rich boy’s life was turned upside down. What was the meaning of his life?
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” Those are pretty powerful words. I think the point that the renowned philosopher was trying to make is that human life was intended to be different than the animal life. We have the capacity to think and probe the great questions of life. We have the ability to choose a life of meaning and purpose. We can decide to override our desires for the sake of a higher ethic and standard of morality.
We each have such unfathomable potential! Yet, it all begins with a question. It all begins with inquiry.
The Jewish sages wrote in the Talmud: “If someone tells you that he didn’t labor and yet he found, do not believe him. If someone tells you that he labored and he found, you can believe him.” In other words, no one comes to the truth without going through the process of seeking it. Every person must examine his or her own life.
In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon wrote: “I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens.” Even the king of Israel set out to explore the meaning and purpose of life. The book of Ecclesiastes is essentially a record of the wisdom he acquired.
When is the last time you examined your life, your purpose, your meaning? It’s important to check in periodically – to examine and re-examine our lives so that we remain on track, full of inspiration, and guided toward contribution.
That’s a life worth living.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President