“To life, to life, l’chaim. L’chaim , l’chaim to life.”
We can hear the nostalgic melody of Tevia the milkman resounding through our ears. Da da da da dee da da da doo.
The only problem is, Tevia’s iconic translation is blaringly wrong!
L’Chaim would mean ‘to life’. L’Chaim, plural, literally means ‘to lives.’
Hmmm. Does this mean I should now sip my single malt reveling in my dual identities? L’chaim, to latent schizophrenia?!
Our Hidden Lives
“Some people think, that great G-d will come from the sky, take away everything, and make everybody feel high. But if you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth, and now we see the light, stand up for your right” The Baba Marley
Question: Do Jews believe that the essence of life is found in ‘The Now’ or in ‘The Future? In “This World” or “The Next”?
And a follow up: Do we have free will, or does Divine agency reign supreme? Are we in charge of our destiny, or is everything in the hands of heaven?
These are questions that give birth to the hidden lives of Lchaim.
Live for the Moment
“Don’t place anything before your eyes except the present day” Rebbe Nachman (LM, 272)
It is obvious that Jews believe in the primacy of the present moment. Our life exists today. Not in some distant future. If we could only fully align ourselves in the present moment, mashiach would come (Sanhedrin 98a). As for the reward for our good deeds, we are explicitly told “The reward of the mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.” (Avos 4:2)
Regarding the question of free will: the answer is again unswervingly, yes. We are the makers of our destiny. As Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? “If not now, when?” (Avos 1:14)
Case closed. Or is it?
Live for Tomorrow
“You must always remember to attach your thoughts to the next world, never forget this.” Rebbe Nachman (LM 54)
Jewish wisdom affirms with 100% clarity that the world we currently inhabit is an infinitesimally dull speck of nothingness, compared to the vibrant spectrum of human potential waiting for us just around the corner.
“This world is merely a waiting room for the world to come… One hour of life in the next world is more blissful than the cumulative pleasure of this entire world” (Avos 4:16-17).
As to the question of agency “There is nothing other than Hashem (Ein od Milvado Dvarim 4:35). Hashem controls everything.
Moreover, the highest level of wisdom attainment in Judaism is realizing that one’s existence is completely nullified before this awe-inducing Divine effluence. (Tanya, 43)
Hacking the Contradiction
Should I be squeezing all I can out of my short life now? Or be wisely saving up for an undetermined time my ethereal future?
Am I in control of my own destiny? Or is everything in the hands of a greater power?