Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind. — Ecclesiastes 12:13
Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, a renowned 18th century-Polish rabbi, once taught the following profound, yet mysterious concept. He said that all souls descend from heaven to earth by a ladder of sorts. After the soul has arrived, the ladder is removed and the soul is called to make its way back to heaven by itself.
Some, said the rabbi, give up right away, thinking it impossible to reach heaven without a ladder. Others, he said, try to leap toward heaven and fall time and time again. These souls, who at least put in some effort, eventually give up since they were not successful early on. Finally, there are the wise souls who know that there is only one thing to do – to serve God and constantly strive upward no matter what happens along the way.
Truly, that is all we can do in life. The rest is up to God – we will eventually be lifted to heaven by His strength and not by our own.
As complex as this great rabbi’s teaching might seem, it is really quite simple. In the end, we aren’t in control of everything. All we can do while on this earth is what we are called to do and have faith in God. The rest is up to Him.
I find the same simplicity at the very end of the book of Ecclesiastes after King Solomon had taught his readers all there was to know. Solomon wrote, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”
Man has a duty to serve God — that’s our purpose in life. I find that this clear and concise concept is one we need to come back to over and over again.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President