Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Jewish Existentialism

Pirkei Avos - Chapter 4, Mishna 22(b)
And now we come to the true crux of the issue. We began by stating that unearned reward embarrasses its recipient. We then stated that in a logical sense, there is not even such a thing as unearned reward: it cannot be created out of nothing. On the deepest level, however, if I have never done anything to justify my existence, I am not even *real*. I am a passive, created being, nothing more than an extension of the G-d who created me. And this is the crushing and debilitating sense of inexistence which plagues and hounds the truly thinking human being to no end. (It was even the sense that drove Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge -- but for a separate discussion.)

We can now begin to appreciate what the World to Come truly is. It is not only a place of reward. It is a place of existence. Until I have achieved and justified myself, I am not truly real. But when out of my own volition I choose good where I could have chosen evil, I have made something for myself. I have struggled and won. And this not only earns me reward; it grants me existence. I am not only a created being; *I* have accomplished! My deeds are my own! *G-d* didn't do them for me! They are my own creation! And this grants me reality. I live forever because I have performed deeds of immortality. I am -- and there can be no greater joy.

And when we have earned our existence, we can enjoy a relationship with G-d. A painting cannot have a "relationship" with its painter. But as independent beings, we can love and be loved by G-d. The World to Come is the place of such closeness. We exist and are eternal -- and so, we can bask in ecstasy in the glow of the Divine Presence.
For some entirely irrelevant "Faith of our Founding Fathers" debunking, done with panache, Go here.

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