Yes, it is true. Man, alone in all of creation, is aware that he will die. The recognition of this certainty is quite sobering. Integrating a happy life with the knowledge that our existence is, in fact, a terminal condition, can be daunting.
Most of us choose to distract ourselves from the idea that we are in a virtual hospice. The human condition cannot live with this understanding as an around-the-clock factor. It is just too heavy.
This defense mechanism has both good and bad components. The good is that we can go about our time on earth without being in a constant state of angst. The bad is that by acting like we have all the time in the world, or a least more time, we may postpone something that can never be retrieved.
Jewish tradition is replete with advice on this issue. We are told, “Do not say I will study when I have time; perhaps you will not have time!” And “Repent the day before you die.” Of course, most of us will never know what that day will be.
Sometimes a situation emerges that forces our attention. It shows us that life, is indeed fragile. It shows us that every moment is precious. It shows us that we just do not know what is coming next.
The United States and the entire world have been shaken to the core by the recent carnage at the Boston Marathon. How many who were to be affected by this incredible mayhem had made plans with their loved ones to meet or eat or have coffee after the race? Now, many who anticipated celebratory dinners at fancy restaurants are at bedside vigils in hospitals.
On a local level, an incident occurred last week that has left the Jewish community reeling. A beautiful 12-year-old girl was struck by a car while skateboarding across the street in Boca Raton here in Florida. She died as a result of the accident. Her levayah was attended by nearly a thousand mourners. The procession stopped in front of her Bais Yaakov school. How could she be gone so soon?
Pirkei Avot teaches, “Im lo achshav, eimatai?” – If not now when? Don’t put things off. Tell your family you love them. Right your wrongs. Do a mitzvah. Make today matter. Tomorrow may never come.