Jewish Realist and Religious Belief

Jewish Realist and Religious

Rabbi Reuven Bulka is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA and responds to the question “Can you be a Jewish Realist and Religious.

By living well.

That may seem like a flippant response, but it is meant seriously. We prepare to die almost from the moment that we engage in the conscious embrace of life’s responsibilities, literally from the time we mature. This is not meant as a morbid observation. It is instead the seemingly harsh but actually pleasant reality.

No one lives forever, and we can never know for sure how much time has been granted to us. But we do know that the justification for our being placed on this earth inheres in our translating the time and ability that has been granted to us into worthwhile, life enhancing expression.

Then, when we leave this world, it can be said that we made a difference; that the world is better off for our having visited. Tests have shown that people who score high on purpose-in-life tests, who have a sense of purpose and direction to life, are less likely to fear death.

In a psychological sense at least, they are better prepared to die. But they are better prepared to die because they lived better, and are therefore less fearful that their sojourn on earth was a total waste. This psychological preparedness is itself rooted in a spiritual reality, the reality of having lived a life defined by spiritual rather than narcissistic yearnings.

There is a famous statement attributed to a great Talmudic sage, who urged his disciples to repent one day before they die. The students, understandably perplexed, asked their master how they could know when they are going to die. The sage acknowledged the problem, and responded by saying — all the more reason to repent today (right away), lest you die tomorrow.

The sage understood that by incorporating our mortality into our daily existence, we become better equipped for death and the ensuing journey.

The ultimate message in all this is that contrary to the way most people think, the fact of death is actually a potent life force.

Religious Opinion

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