Toward the Meaningful Life
Imagine that you have lived your entire life in a dark tunnel.
Your parents and grandparents lived there too, and so did their parents and grandparents.
You have grown accustomed to the darkness and developed the necessary skills to survive.
You move through life, sometimes staggering in the dark, at other times feeling your way along.
You are totally resigned to the fact that this is what life is, and that it will continue to be so.
But you have been told or have read in some ancient books that long ago, your ancestors lived in a very different well lighted place.
You have heard that you don’t necessarily have to spend your entire life in darkness.
However, you are skeptical – after all, this darkness is the only life you know.
After so many generations have lived in this tunnel, can you really believe some old tale about the possibility of a life on the outside?
And besides, you have learned to cope here, to make yourself comfortable in the darkness, so why would you want to risk changing things?
And yet, something inside tells you that the darkness is just not right for you.
No matter how accustomed you have become to it, you still feel restless and insecure.
You realize that although the darkness may be part of life, it is not life itself.
As we stumble along and feel our way through life, we have all wondered whether we will ever find true happiness.
Will we ever find peace within ourselves and lead a truly meaningful life, or are we destined to a life fraught with fear and confusion.
Will virtue and kindness really prevail?
If not, how can we justify to ourselves and our children the need to adhere to moral and ethical principles?
After all, even though human nature craves a higher purpose, what is the point of working so hard to live a virtuous life if it is not leading anywhere?
The answer to all these questions is just one word: Redemption!
Redemption is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Redemption is G-d telling us that the reason for which He created the universe will indeed be realized – that goodness will prevail and that our lives can be meaningful.
Redemption is both an integral part of G-d’s plan and an integral part of human life.
Without redemption, our lives would indeed be meaningless – a never ending tunnel of darkness, with little awareness of an alternative existence and no hope of ever reaching light.
Chapter 2 Redemption From What?
But what exactly do we need redemption from?
From being trapped in the darkness of the material world, which obscures our search for meaning.
From a listless and aimless life.
From our doubts and fears.
G-d created each of us with a Divine spark, that when cultivated allows us to illuminate the darkness and move foreword.
How does one cultivate this spark?
By recognizing the strength within your soul.
By rising above your ego and acknowledging an absolute force that is far greater than yourself.
By being a giving person and leading a virtuous life.
And above all, by realizing that amidst the darkness there is indeed a light to be found, which will instill every act of virtue with infinite meaning.
Redemption is not an event that happens at the end of our life on earth; it is a cumulative process that begins at the outset of our lives, and every act of goodness brings us one step closer to completing the process.
Redemption means an end to darkness and confusion; it means a time of harmony.
Is redemption a miracle?
It is the way things were always meant to be.
But how can we be sure we will be redeemed?
After all, when we look around, the world seems quite far from redemption.
Selfishness and darkness abound.
The answer, of course, is that G-d told us it would be so.
Ask yourself a simple question: Why do you strive to live a meaningful life?
Why aren’t you comfortable living only for yourself, thinking of nothing but your own needs and desires?
We are driven by a paradox, a force created by the pull of two opposites: our body, which represents the material universe, and our soul, which represents the spiritual universe.
Everything about our existence is marked by this dichotomy.
We live in a world that is imperfect and yet we strive for perfection.
We live a life full of pain and difficulty and yet we strive for peace and harmony.
The same is true on a collective and global scale.
From the beginning of time, people have invested their hearts and minds to make life a little bit better.
We have created new political and economic systems, we have pursued education and enlightenment, we have developed industry and enterprise – all in search of a more perfect society.
Notwithstanding the extreme differences among races, nations, and beliefs people across the globe – six billion and counting are looking for a better life.
In a word we are all looking for redemption.
Do not be intimidated by the word Redemption. Redemption is not necessarily a religious or spiritual matter.
Redemption means freedom – freedom from the boundaries that confine the human spirit.
To be redeemed means to be freed from a tyrannical regime; to be freed from a dangerous habit or an abusive situation; to be freed from the fear within ourselves and the confusion that clouds our vision.
So we are looking for redemption, whether we use that word or not.
Some of us experience brief bursts of freedom but more often than not we resign ourselves to lives without such light or clarity.
The chains of our existence seem too formidable.
We are in a state of confinement, of exile; the shackles of the material world confine us in darkness.
How do you free yourself?
By acknowledging that you were created by God – in G-d’s image – and are therefore inherently good.
By realizing that you come from a higher place than this limited world; that your mission on earth is not merely to use the material world for your own satisfaction, but to refine and civilize it through virtuous acts.
Yes. It can be difficult to find meaning in this dark world.
Believing in G-d and experiencing G-d is a process that takes much time and effort.
But the first step is a simple one: Before you can escape the darkness you must acknowledge it.
Before you can leave your state of exile you must realize that you indeed dwell there.
Chapter 3 How Will Redemption Come About?
Will redemption radically alter our lives?
Yes and no.
The physical world around us will not change; rather we will change.
Maimonides explicitly states that no miracle will occur; redemption will not be an apocalyptic or supernatural event.
The era of redemption (or “The Messianic Age”) says Maimonides will be a time when we are all absorbed in “knowing G-d.”
This means, in part that people will perceive G-d in all their experiences.
Whether a doctor or business person or a parent, we will all see our material pursuits through the filter of spirituality – not as an end in themselves, but as a means to a higher end.
Just as a hungry person naturally craves food, we will naturally crave goodness; we will intuit what is right and wrong and act accordingly.
No longer will there be a dichotomy between our heart and minds, our bodies and souls, our internal and external feelings.
We will all come to recognize that every detail of this universe is the work of God.
The final redemption will come about in a manner similar to the redemption and exodus from Egypt.
Just as Moses was sent by G-d to lead the liberation from Egypt, a Messiah – “Moshiach” – will lead the entire world into the final redemption.
Why the need for a leader?
Because even though we each have a Divine spark within us, the darkness of the materiel world is overpowering.
G-d sends us a selfless leader, therefore, who can rise above the material distractions, who is sensitive to the needs of a generation, and who has the ability to communicate the message of G-dliness to our complicated, confused society.
And who, through his actions and teaching inspires us to study G-d’s wisdom and live according to His laws.
All the nations of the world will be motivated to serve G-d together, to fulfill their obligations by following the moral and Divine commandments as set down in the Bible.
Chapter 4 Where Do We Stand Now?
After thousands of years of living in the tunnel and traveling through its darkness, we now stand on the threshold of the era of redemption.
Revolutionary changes are taking place on all fronts – on a personal level and on a global scale, in technology, in politics and in the human spirit.
The values of freedom, tolerance and generosity are spreading throughout the community of nations.
Family has become important again, as people seek to build meaningful relationships that go beyond their careers or material desires.
Throughout America and the world, people are genuinely searching.
There is greater commitment to inner change and personal growth, instead of blaming others, people are beginning to realize that they must take responsibility for their own lives and are endeavoring to do so.
The world is ready for redemption, but how do we prepare for it?
By opening our eyes and understanding the unique times in which we live.
By acknowledging that the events that unfold each day are part of the process leading toward the meaningful life of redemption.
By learning about G-d and spirituality so that we may live according to his will.
This isn’t always easy.
As we wrestle with an uneasy past and an unfamiliar future, it may seem more comforting to cling to the live that we know and our familiar with.
But the thirst for redemption is coupled with another trait that all humans share: hope.
Hope for health and prosperity.
Hope for justice and virtue.
Hope for freedom from the darkness.
Because the challenge is so large, you must start small.
Take an inspiring class or go to a lecture.
Learn about G-d and redemption – the purpose of creation.
Remember, the first step in escaping the darkness is acknowledging that it is darkness.
Familiarize yourself with these ideas at your own pace, and you will begin to see a larger picture take shape in our own mind.
Pause for a moment to reflect on the true priorities in your life.
Make your home a loving environment; make your office a place where generosity and compassion replace selfishness and aggression.
And above all, share these ideas with family and friends.
If one person can resolve to make these changes, then ten can.
And if ten can, so can one hundred and on and on.
After all we are intrinsically good, we naturally want to lead better, more productive, more meaningful lives.
Commit yourself today and exhort others to do the same.
After traveling for so long in the dark and winding tunnel of life, we are now approaching its end and we are beginning to feel and see the warm bright light shining in.
Now, then, is not the time to hesitate, it is not the time to be skeptical or selfish.
Even the smallest things – a kind word, a dollar to charity, a few minutes of prayer – are immeasurably significant.
We must do anything we can to direct even one ray of light into the darkness.
Our journey is about to end, we are set to reach our destination, our rendezvous with G-d.
The next move is yours.