King Solomon tells us (Ecclesiastes 7:2), “טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל-בֵּית-אֵבֶל, מִלֶּכֶת אֶל-בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה – It is better to go to a funeral than to a party.” What does he mean by this? Haven’t we said before that Judaism isn’t a negative philosophy? That we try not to focus on negativity?
Today, I visited a cemetery with a group of people to remember a member of our community who passed away. This was not a sad gathering, rather it was a reflective gathering. Realizing all the things a person can accomplish in their life and the distance that the ripples of that person’s impact can travel is truly amazing. One person’s life keeps giving long after that person is physically gone, that is truly empowering.
As well, taking a moment to internalize and reflect on our own mortality is very healthy. Most of don’t think we will live forever, we know that one day we will no longer be here, in a physical sense. However, we rarely actually think about that concept and what it means to our lives and our priorities. Every once in a while it is a good idea to think about the short time span we have on this earth and make sure that our actions are synced up with our big picture goals.
In Judaism, we believe that each Jewish person is a unique individual and has a unique opportunity to effect the world. But, we also have free choice, we have the choice whether or not to actualize this opportunity. Every once in a while we need to look at our lives and the big picture and make sure that we are on the path that we want to be on, the path that will lead us to grab that opportunity.
This is why going to a funeral is better than going to a party. A party is all about enjoying and celebrating the moment that we are in right now. A funeral is all about reflecting on what was and how that can impact eternity. Eternity is certainly better than the moment we are in right now.
Today’s Jewish mission is to go to a cemetery and visit a relative with someone who can tell you about their life’s impact on the world. Reflect on your own life and make sure you are in sync with your values and are on the path that will lead to grabbing your opportunity.
(Note: If you are a Cohen (Priestly Tribe) do not go to the cemetery, just visit someone who can tell you about someone who passed away and how they impacted the world. If you don’t know if you are a Cohen, err on the safe side and don’t go.)