And the real answer is – no difference. Generations come; generations go. They seem so important at the time, and then they pass as if they were never were, like dust in the wind. And really nothing matters. Until you understand the purpose of life. Once you understand that Hashem created us to grow, that Hashem put us in this world to shape ourselves into what we will be for eternity, then you understand the value of life. Life is valuable because it is time – time to grow, time to accomplish, time given as the chance to acquire your World to Come. Once you understand that, you understand life, and then you understand the tragedy of death. Death is dreadful because it robs a person of that chance to grow.
Rav Matisyahu Salomon, the Lakewood mashgiach, explained that this is what Rashi is telling us. When the Jews of Shushan celebrated, it was because they had reached a different understanding of life. A moment earlier, death was upon them. Yet, suddenly, inexplicably, it all turned around. As a result, they were a changed people. They no longer valued the things they once did; they viewed life from a dramatically different vantage point.
And because it was so sudden and the change so complete, it catapulted them to a level of understanding that was unprecedented. It was all clear. And they felt tremendous joy – but joy for a reason. They recognized the extraordinary wealth they could acquire with one mitzvah. And this is what brought them happiness.
They understood the value of life. They understood the reason Hashem has put us on this planet. And so life was precious beyond description because they understood its ultimate value.
This concept should be very relevant to us, as we, too, should be happy beyond description. Every moment of life is an opportunity to acquire wealth of unimaginable proportions – far more than a million dollars an hour. One word of Torah learning is a jewel that will last forever. Putting on tefillin once is an eternal treasure far more valuable than anything found in this world.
When a person understands this, his perspective changes. He understands the great opportunity Hashem has given us: a chance to a acquire eternity. He will be filled with happiness and joy, and he will take on life with a passion.