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As we begin the reading of the yearly Torah cycle, I thought I would share a thought from the first Torah portion, which recounts the creation of the world through G-d’s decree of destroying the world (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8).  As we look through the portion, death rears its head many times.  In the irony of the grandeur of creation, death doesn’t lurk far behind.

One commentary I saw, Torah Temimah, on the verse (1:31) “And G-d saw all that He did and it was very good…” presents a Midrash that the phrase “very good” refers to death.  He poses two questions on the Midrash.  First, why would death be “very good” and two, why would death be tied into creation.  When we consider what death does for life, it is supposed to be an incentive not to sit and be lazy.  By recognizing the limit of life and that everything decays, we have an obligation to produce newer and better products for the progress of civilization.  If all things where everlasting, there would be no incentive to work to create.  And as we know, being creative is part of the human mandate of being endowed with a Divine soul.  G-d creates so we create and while the two types of creative activity are entirely distinct, the base point is clear.

In essence, death was not the punishment for eating the tree of knowledge.  Death always existed.  Death becomes a curse, something not good, in the context of how we live life. If we choose to live life merely living off the efforts of others, then life is not the fulfillment of our creative side.  We are mandated to be creative, to leave the world better than when we entered.  This is the lesson of how death can be a hidden blessing.  Dying forces us to have the perspective of time.  And while most of us can’t grasp what death means from a physical as well as spiritual standpoint, we need to have the awareness that life is short and we need to work towards our goals and dreams.

 

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