Dying with Dignity

It often happens that foreign, secular ideas creep into the minds of even those who have faith. Usually, the way these concepts infiltrate is via catch phrases and clichés. First they enter our vocabulary, then they become a part of our mentality.

One example is “dying with dignity.”

That phrase is poison. It originates in the movement promoting euthanasia. This is a phrase that deserves to die.

True dignity comes from the soul, from living a life of goodness and holiness and meaning. Our body is a vehicle for that mission to be achieved. But the body is not our real self, and not our source of dignity.

At the end of a good and purposeful life, the body may be frail and weak, but the soul is as bright as ever, having accomplished its mission. If people have to do some unpleasant jobs to bring comfort to that body in its final years, it should be seen as an honor. There is no greater dignity than to serve another.

I am not belittling the pain of seeing a loved one suffer. And I am not saying that the body’s deterioration is easy to face. I am saying that a person’s dignity comes from their soul and their moral achievements. That is living with dignity.

We end our life in the same way we started it, dependent on the love of others. That is a most dignified departure from this world to the next.

Rabbi Moss and Menachem Bluming

Why Isn’t Shavuot Well Known?

Here’s a guess. The reason why Shavuos is the least celebrated Jewish festival is a startling one. It is the least demanding… The easier the festival, the less it is observed.

The most difficult festival to observe is Yom Kippur, on which we abstain from food and drink altogether and pray all day. And yet, this rather grueling holiday is the most widely observed. The easiest festival to observe is Shavuos. All that is expected of us is to have a day of rest and eat lots of cheesecake and receive a great gift from above (the Torah). How hard can that be? And this pleasurable festival is the most neglected.

There’s a surprising lesson there. We value things that require effort. If something comes too easy, it is taken lightly. But if it’s demanding, it is more compelling. A tough diet will be taken seriously. A difficult work project will be given more attention. We invest ourselves where we feel what we are doing actually matters. When we are given serious responsibilities we step up to the role.

You would expect the opposite to be true. Indeed, there have been well meaning voices in Jewish history that have suggested that the best way to stem the tide of assimilation is by easing the laws of Judaism to make it more appealing. It makes sense. Lower the bar, lighten the burden, and people will be more willing to stay Jewish. But the result was the opposite. The Jewish movements that demanded less from their constituents have more often than not been a gateway out of Judaism rather than a way in. Quite simply, if Judaism asks nothing of me, then that’s what Judaism will get.

We don’t need to dilute Judaism to make it attractive. We just need to make it accessible. Jewish souls are thirsting for a Judaism that will ask something of them, demand their allegiance to a higher cause, stretch their minds to think deeper, challenge them to live with a sense of purpose and mission.

Menachem M Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org