“YOU SHOULD REPENT THE DAY BEFORE YOU DIE!” These are the words Rabbi Eliezer told his students. They looked at him with puzzlement on their faces and said, “But we don’t know on which day we will die. And to that the Rabbi replied, “All the more reason you should repent today, lest you die tomorrow.”
Judaism teaches that we are expected to repent, to make up for the offenses we have committed. But that is easier said than done. It is hard to apologize. It is hard to admit we were wrong. So we put it off. We often think, well I’ll have time to do that later. It is for this reason that the rabbis saw great wisdom in creating the customs and traditions of the High Holy Days, including the Vidui, the confessional prayers, which we will read tomorrow. We are reminded that even if we are young, we should not delay the act of asking forgiveness.
No matter what our age, the High Holy Days force us to face our mortality. The Unetaneh Tokef Prayer, which we recite at the morning services for the High Holy Days, reminds us, in not so gentle a way, that our lives are on the line, as we read, “How many shall pass on…who shall live and who shall die.” As we recite these words each High Holy Days, we pray that we will not be the ones fulfilling the second part of that phrase.”
Yet, do we want to live forever? In his book, “When I am 164,”writer David Ewing Duncan talks about the advances of science that could potentially increase our live expectancy significantly. In his lectures around the country he posed this question to the audience: “How long do you want to live?” and gave them these options:
· 80 years, currently the average life span in the West;
· 120 years, close to the maximum anyone has lived;
· 150 years, which would require a biotech breakthrough;
The results are very interesting. . .