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Posted on October 20, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And G-d said to Noach, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth has become full of (Chamas) robbery because of them, and behold I am destroying them from the earth. (Breishis 6:13)

The Kli Yakar has an interesting approach on what it means that “the end of all flesh has come before Me”. He explains that “the day of death” is called “Ketz Kal Bassar”- “the end of all flesh”. It’s understandable, he says, that the animal kingdom doesn’t think about their mortality but neither are men considering their day of death.

He says that is why seven days before the actual flood, Mesushalach passed away at the age of 969 and the world mourned his loss. Perhaps that would trigger a thought of Teshuvah, and forestall the flood but it did not. The Kli Yakar explains that this is the purpose of a mourning period to remind the living to take the seriousness of life to heart so that by the time we reach mid life at least we would begin to do Teshuvah.

We gain from this an insight into the workings of the higher world. HASHEM knows the thoughts of humanity. He inspects hearts. Just recently, someone sent me a picture of a graph showing how many searches there were for Tehillim. The line took off like a rocket ship on an infinite curve. People’s hearts are moved based on current events. Just like l’havdil, Google can tell how many searches there are for a given subject, HASHEM is tracking the thoughts and the searching heart of mankind.

That’s the good news and bad news. The bad news we don’t have to spell out. The good news is that people can change the fate of the entire world with their thoughts. Nobody is too far away and no gesture or expression of good will is too small to make a huge difference. Everything counts and is worthy even if it is triggered by pressure and tragic events, so says Rabeinu Yona in Sha’arei Teshuvah.

I remember years ago when there were numerous bus bombings in Eretz Yisrael. It was horrifying and frightening for everyone. I was there with one of my sons before his Bar Mitzvah.

One day there was a bombing on a bus going to Haifa and people were blown to pieces. Terrible! We took a bus from Jerusalem to Masada. It was packed and all the people except my son and I were continuing to Eilat. There were not enough seats on the bus and so my son and I stood by the steps. We were the only “religious” people on the bus, but everyone was passing around Tefillas HaDerech prayer and saying it with sincerity. They kept offering my son and me a seat. We did not accept but we acknowledged again and again the generosity of spirit that pervaded the culture on the bus. I told my son that, no doubt people are soberly considering that this could be their last moment here on earth.

Again, Rabbeinu Yona brings in Sha’arei Teshuvah from Koheles Rabba, “Whoever performs a single Mitzvah close to his death is considered as though he fulfilled the entire Torah, and whoever commits a single sin close to his death is considered as if he violated the entire Torah.” That last deed of a person determines their essence! Wow! I don’t know if the people on this bus and on buses all across Israel were consciously aware of this statement from Koheles Rabba but intuitively everyone was alert, that the person I am sitting next to may just be the last person I meet and this may just be my last moment. Please G-d, let it be representative of the best of what I am.

It would seem, that’s the way to live all of life. Rabbeinu Yona quotes from Tractate Derech Eretz the following profound and perhaps confounding statement, “If your desire is not to die, then die before you die.” Don’t worry. I get confused too. What does it mean? Perhaps it is simply telling us that if we live our lives like this is the last moment then death is not the end of our existence. With the quality of our living, we will have paved a way to Eternity.

Now I’m thinking that if we are living like that, then HASHEM is getting a lot of searches for “HASHEM”, “Eternity”, “Olam Haba”, “Teshuvah”, “Mitzvos”, and then there is no need to shake the world and mankind back to its senses. “If you want not to die, then die before you die” informs us on how to live.