For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. — Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT)
Most of us would agree with the statement that we won’t live forever. But that isn’t entirely true. The issue is not if we live forever or not, but who “we” refers to.
If we think of ourselves as our body, then it’s true; we do not live forever, and knowing that should inspire us to make the most of the time we have. However, if we know the truth about who we are – that we are essentially a soul and not the body we have been given for a number of years – then it is true that we live forever, only not in physical form or on this planet, but in our spiritual form in our real home in Heaven.
As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” This perspective should also affect the way we live as well.
If you were going on a short trip for a week or two, you would never go on a vacation that would spoil your life after the trip. You wouldn’t squander all your money on this vacation and have nothing when you returned to your house. You wouldn’t quit your job or sever important relationships. At the same time, you also wouldn’t want to waste a minute of your vacation, and you would hope that the relaxation you experience while away would follow you into your daily routine.
The Jewish sages teach that we are each a soul, given the “clothing” of a physical body so that we can be here for a limited amount of time. Knowing this is a temporary state of being, like being on a trip, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would take away our reward in the afterlife. We wouldn’t want to forget that we have a job to do – to make ourselves and the world a better place. We wouldn’t want to waste a minute of our lives and would use every moment as a chance to develop our souls.
Knowing that we do live forever makes us pause and consider what we are doing today to ensure that our “forever” is the best that it possibly can be. How can we be more generous? How can we become more loving? In what ways can we overcome our shortcomings and develop our God-given talents?
One day, our bodies will be part of the earth. But our souls never die. We simply return to where we came from and live the rest and best part of our lives. On that day, all we will take with us are our good deeds.
How might that influence the decisions we make today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President