Shabbos Parashas Terumah

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 11
We know that the human body is not a simple unit, but rather is made up of many components. The Creator fashioned the body from the four basic physical elements: fire, air, water, and earth. The body is made up of different organs and limbs, and each organ and limb is made up of different parts, each with a unique name, unique capabilities, and a unique function. And each part’s existence is maintained through means specific to that particular part. The body is complete only when all its various parts are complete. If some part is missing or compromised, the impairment causes the person distress and dissatisfaction. There are many organs that are so critical that without them a person would be dead. And there are organs without which a person lacks protection from the various hazards constantly present in his environment. With some people, the lack of a certain organ or even a deficiency in its function can cause them to go insane, so that they are worse off than an animal. Furthermore, just as a person’s continued existence depends on his body being complete with all its parts, his continued existence depends on the outside world being complete with all its parts. In addition, the world is filled with things which, if they come upon a person, can kill him or make him severely ill, and no organ is free of such risks. The Sages teach in Devarim Rabbah 9:3 that every organ is susceptible to some kind of defect that can lead to a person’s death. If we ponder all this, we realize that nothing is as difficult as keeping a person alive. And nothing can occur more easily than a person’s departure from this world due to the absence of one of the conditions necessary for his continued existence. What, then, is man and what is his glory?
Now, my soul, when I see all this, how can I have confidence in your strength and your continued existence? I see you as so very fleeting, like the gourd in the Book of Yonah, which in one night emerged and in one night withered. How can you take pride in your existence when the specter of your disintegration and departure from the world constantly hovers over you? If you neglect to pay attention to the things you must take care of to maintain your own existence, you will grow weaker and weaker, to the point of death. Ponder how many things you need to do constantly to stay alive: eat and drink, rest and sleep, relieve yourself of bodily wastes, and on and on. You have to fight to stave off the deterioration and death that would come upon you naturally, by itself, if you took no action. If you let up for a moment from the countless tasks you need to perform to keep yourself going, you would be no more.
This being so, you can see clearly that your existence is not a natural phenomenon, but rather is the result of kindnesses Hashem does for you to keep you alive, through the mechanisms which He, in His wisdom, put into place. Hashem created all the elements of which you are composed, and all the elements of which the world around you is composed, and of which you need to avail yourself to stay alive. You receive your life force moment by moment. At any given moment you have no guarantee that you will live to the next moment. You are entirely in Hashem’s hands, and you have to look toward Him and hope He will grant you your next moment of life. As it is written (Tehillim 123:2): “Behold, like the eyes of servants unto the hand of their master, and like the eyes of a maid unto the hand of her mistress, so are our eyes unto Hashem our God, until He extends to us His graciousness.”
You must guard yourself, and make sure not to forget these things, lest you lose sight of them and regard your existence as secure and perpetual. Do not think you need nothing outside of yourself to continue in existence. Do not forget that you are mortal. View yourself as a being that lives only a brief moment. Consider yourself very lowly, for the past is gone, and you may not make it into the future. Do not take your mind off the fact that if nature took its course, you would be gone. View your existence not as a certainty, but rather as something that only might be, if Hashem shows you favor. You understand the difference between something that whose existence is a certainty and something whose existence is a mere possibility. So do not put your faith in what is but a thin reed, and do not rely on it for support. Rather, place your hope constantly in Hashem.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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