Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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Go Up

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

This week's Torah portion, coming Shabbat after Rosh Hashana, is Deuteronomy 32, parshat Haazinu.

In this weekly portion of the Torah, Moshe gives all of Israel a song that tells of the ups and downs of Jewish life until the Redemption finally comes. The song gives us our two choices and their consequences: We can do what God says and go up, or we can do what God says not to do, and go down.

After finishing the song, God tells Moshe to “Ascend to this mountain … and die on the mountain where you will ascend … .”

There is a strict rule in learning Torah that every letter is crucial. This means that nothing is extraneous. Each word comes to teach us something; otherwise, it would not be there. So what is the purpose for the seemingly extra words “on the mountain where you will ascend”? The Torah could have simply said, “Ascend to this mountain … and die there.”

The phrase “Die on the mountain where you will ascend” teaches the essential lesson in life that we all die on the mountain that we climb. This means that during our lifetime, we climb a mountain day by day. We get higher and higher as we grow more and more. Our good deeds cause us to ascend higher, and our bad deeds either prevent us from going higher, or, even worse and depending on the deed, can cause us to slip and fall lower. Then, when we pass into the next world, we die at the height we were able to accomplish while we were here.

What difference does it make how high we are when we go into the next world? Remember, “high” and “low” are really metaphors describing the concept of spiritual capacity. In fact, all talk of the World to Come is metaphoric.

Our “capacity” means that our spiritual position in the next world is fixed according to our ability to receive the spiritual light that will accompany that wondrous revelation. The more holiness we bring into our lives while we are here, the greater our capacity will be to withstand the brightness there. If we are accustomed to holiness, we will be able to go right into that great brightness of glory in the World to Come. This experience will be even greater than when Moshe walked into the Cloud of Glory on Mount Sinai. But if we are used to sinning while we are here on Earth, our eyes will squint horribly at the bright light and we will be forced away, as were the Jews at the bottom of the mountain.

The most wonderful thing about living a holy life, even without considering the reward that is in store for us in the next world, is that our physical life in this world is better. When we walk with God in our mind, we walk erect and happy. When we walk with only the physical on our mind, we stoop with its weight. When we live a spiritual life, we look for opportunities to give. When we live only in the physical world, we look for opportunities to take.

It is a well-publicized fact that religious families live happier and longer lives than non-religious families. Even without thinking of the great reward that is surely coming, living a spiritual life gives us the most joy even while we are here.

L'Shana Tova From the Old City,
Reb Gutman Locks

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