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If we wish to live life fully, and build saintly tabernacles in its every instance, we ought to cherish every second that G-d gives us, and infuse our every moment, every encounter, and every opportunity, with joy and meaning.

Rabbi Allouche

“Life goes by so fast,” we often hear.

Indeed, it seems that life is always eluding us. When children graduate from school, they are convinced that life is still way ahead of them. “We first have to graduate high-school, go to college, get a degree and a well-paying job for life to really begin,” they think to themselves. 

But when those goals are finally achieved, many believe that life has still not really begun. And they impatiently wait to reach the years after their retirement to begin to explore and enjoy all that they have always wanted.

In the words of my dear mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “We devote so much time to the “before” and “after” [stages of life] that we no longer have time to experience the thing itself. When we are in the “before” stage, we think about what will be; in the “after” stage, we think about how things were. Either way, there is nothing to make us hold on to the present… But the focal point of our thinking is not life for the sake of the morrow but rather life today. What matters now is what is now.

The students of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, the Rebbe of Kotzk (1787-1859) were once approached by a famed Jewish philanthropist shortly after the Rebbe’s passing. The philanthropist had been greatly helped by the Rebbe of Kotzk, and he wanted to repay the favor and contribute a large monetary sum in the Rebbe’s loving memory.

“What did the Rebbe cherish most?” the philanthropist asked the Rebbe’s disciples. “I would like to donate a large monetary sum toward the cause that was closest to his heart.”

To his amazement, the disciples responded: “Our Rebbe did not have any specific person or item that he cherished most.” 

The philanthropist was confused. “But every human being has something that he holds dear to his heart!” he persisted.

“You don’t understand,” the disciples explained. “Our Rebbe lived life fully, to the point that every moment of his life, every person he met, and every idea that he sought to actualize, was the most important causes in his life!”  

This week’s Torah portion speaks of the cloud of G-d guiding the Jews in the desert during their 40-year journey (Numbers 9:17). But why did G-d create a cloud to bestow His glory and serve as a GPS? Wouldn’t a bird, for example, be enough?

Clouds impede the sight of man. They don’t allow us to see beyond the present tense. Here lies the lesson from this cloud of glory: if we wish to live life fully, and build saintly tabernacles in its every instance, we too must learn to live within a cloud that blocks the illusions of the future, and fully cherishes each minute of our lives. This does not mean that preparing for the phases of life is unnecessary or unimportant. But we ought to cherish every second that G-d gives us, and infuse our every moment, every encounter, and every opportunity, with joy and meaning.  

For, as the late Lubavitcher Rebbe once asked, “if we wait until we find the meaning of life, will there be enough life left to live meaningfully?” 

Shabbat shalom, and many, many blessings,

Rabbi Allouche