- Remember that my life is a breath: my eye shall no more see good.
- The eye of him who sees me shall see me no more: while your eyes are upon me, I am gone.
- As the cloud is consumed and vanishes away: so he who goes down to the grave shall come up no more.
- He shall return no more to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore.
- Also I will not spare my mouth from speech. I will let my sad spirit speak and tell the bitterness of my soul.
- Am I a sea or sea monster that you need to suppress me.
- I told myself that my couch will be my comfort and my bed will carry my speech.
- I am broken by the horrors of my dreams and nocturnal visions.
- I prefer death of my soul rather have it remain in my bones.
Iyov refutes Elifaz’ claim that G-d may punish a person in this world in order to spare him eternal suffering after death since a life filled with debilitating pain is as devastating as death itself. A life in which one cannot continue to perfect, correct, and refine oneself is not worth living. Under such circumstances death would be more beneficial than suffering. Iyov denies the possibility of life after death and therefore can see no benefit in losing out on the temporal in exchange for an eternal world of void. Once again Iyov slips effortlessly into the mistake that most of us make at time of trial and tribulation; we are blinded with anguish to the possibility of the light at the end of the tunnel. For some inexplicable reason we extrapolate from the misery of the present onto the future that is still unknown to us. Perhaps it is the intensity of the moment that fixates our vision on the present. Indeed, the fear of the future on the background of pain and anguish can be overwhelming for one who does not posses faith in a just and loving Father. Iyov’s life is like a “a breath” that after it is exhaled will never return. His eyes will never again see anything good; the future is empty darkness.
Death holds out the promise of seclusion and concealment from the curious eyes of those who enjoy the fruits of productive life. My present state is not better than death “I am gone”; yet, I do not share the benefits of death for the eyes of the living are still upon me. The curses of death and life together are unbearable.
The vanishing clouds are Iyov’s metaphor for the future. Just as the water vapor is separates from bodies of water and vanish with the defusing clouds so does a man’s soul separate from the body never to return. The body is lowered into the grave and decomposes to its elementary parts. The knowledge that those elementary parts will be incorporated into other bodies of living matter is little comfort to Iyov since they ‘will no more return to their house, nor shall their place be known anymore’.
I have nothing to lose by speaking my mind nor do I stand to gain anything by my silence. Why have you (G-d) suppressed me from speaking just like you have corded off the sea with its sandy shores and incarcerated the wild beasts of the sea so that they cannot harm civilization? Are my words as harmful as the ravaging waves of the sea and the deadly bite of the wild beasts of the sea?
Until now I have remained silent because I thought that the sight of my suffering body lying in bed would prod my visitors to speak for me. But they have only added insult to injury.
My life is filled with the fear and horrors of whatever suffering the future will bring me. Life has itself become a nightmare that is insufferable.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.