I am 29 days into the Tanya, and 10 days into the Daf Yomi and the benefits are already obvious. The information, the lessons and the parables are transformative. But today’s post is inspired by Rabbi Steven Leder’s sermon at my cousin’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah this past weekend.
I would like to take a moment to thank those who have taught me in recent times, and I believe this is in the order we have met…
Rabbis: Steven Leder, Paul Kipnes, Shlomo Seidenfeld, Aryeh Markman, Avi Rabin, Shlomo Bistritzki, Moshe Bryski, Yehoshua Gordon (OBM), Shalom Denbo, Tzvi Freeman, Zelig Pliskin, Abraham Twerski, David Aaron, Noah Weinberg (OBM), and Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and teachers Salvador Litvak, Jason Katz, and Howard Witkin. I would also like to add in Jonah Light and Benjamin Elterman, who is not only my partner in this endeavor, but an amazing source of knowledge for me. Some of these people I have only met through books and audio and video lessons… but their wisdom is powerful. And if I am missing anyone, please forgive me.
Think About Everything As If It Is The Last…Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld says: “Every person has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one.” I would tweak this a little bit, if that is alright with him, and change it to:
“Every person has two lives. The real one begins when you realize you only have one.”
In life it is essential for us to have things to die for, but much more importantly, it is essential for us to have things to live for. Strangely, dying for something is easy. At least that is what may people will tell you. Maybe it is instinct or a thought that occurs to you in an instant… a momentary decision to protect, fight or battle. We will instinctually die for our kids and loved ones… at least I hope. And the way a firefighter, police officer or soldier goes towards the danger instead of turning from it, which does mean a change of natural instinct, is so powerful.
But when you have something to live for, it requires continual daily thought, deed and action, mindfulness, awareness, and to be constantly on top of it and to make sure you are ALWAYS serving it well, minute by minute, second by second.
Mindfulness is the act of taking in everything. And we do this with our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. We learn in Tanya that there are garments of the soul in thought, speech and deed or action. It would seem to me then, that the senses are the garments of our physical existence and how we experience the world. These then go into our intellect and emotion and inform us. One Last Time
So when Rabbi Leder quoted from one of my favorite writers and authors, Jonathan Safran Foer, about how most of us do not know when something will be for the last time, it hit me like a ton of philosophy and Jewish books. What if we… I… lived every moment as if it was my last. Not a new concept, for sure, but profound one, and it put all of my senses on high, tactical alert. I am not sure I can continue this every minute of the day, but wow… stopping and thinking about that, even in the simplest and most seemingly mundane things is a true transformation.
“Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer
Rabbi Leder continued on to advise us all to do an Ethical Will, which was sad, insightful, but ultimately uplifting and some great advice. To leave behind a legacy and our thoughts for our loved ones and children is a powerful gift.
What is most interesting to me in this, and all I am learning from Talmud and Tanya is that these “restrictions” and within these guidelines is where I am truly free. I get similar lessons from the Yoga Mat. The way to be truly free and find freedom is to be fully present, in the moment, and live without any self judgment, self abuse, self affliction… and the way these moments are instilled with depth, importance and significance is acting as if they are our last. The simple act of driving up your drive way as if it is the last time heightens all of your senses… You become aware of EVERYTHING… And saying I love you becomes so incredibly significant, profound, and cherished.
While I may not be able to do this every second of every day, the things that are most significant, like time with family, loved ones, friends, etc. will be so much more meaningful. We probably won’t know what moments and things are the last ones, but if we honor those moments and fill them, and act as if they are, we will have no regrets… only moments, seconds, minutes and instances that are complete and fulfilled and whole.