Shabbos Prayer Series

Rabbi Levi Langer

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"I will praise Hashem while I will live."

"If one does not praise while he is living, when will he praise? Surely not when he is dead!" (Midrash)

Isn't this Midrash telling us the obvious? One praises Hashem while he is alive, and not when he is no longer living. Of course!

Let us examine a similar passage in the book of Ecclesiastes. "It is suitable to eat and drink and enjoy good with all one's labor that he toils beneath the sun during the brief span of his life that Hashem has given him, for that is his lot." (Ecc. 5:17) One must eat and drink and enjoy the good that he has in this world. But he can do that only if he bears in mind two things, listed at the end of the verse. One, that Hashem has alloted him a specific number of years to be in the world. And two, that whatever eating, drinking and pleasure he has in the world, these are his apportioned lot that he has been given.

Someone who tells himself that he will live forever will never make full use of his energies. Why should he? There will always be a tomorrow, and another day after that. It is when we recognize that we are here for a particular time span, and we had best make good use of those years that have been given us, that we turn our minds to make productive use of our time. Certainly: eat and drink and enjoy the good that you have. But bear in mind that you have it for that span of life that Hashem has given you.

"I will praise Hashem while I live." I will do it while I live, says the Midrash, for after I pass away there won't be another chance. The Psalmist explicitly recognized that fortunate as he is to be able to live and praise Hashem, he had best make use of the chance while he still has it-- for he knows that he won't be around forever.

In the eyes of the Psalmist, this is not at all a morbid thought. No: it prompts him to channel his energies, and to direct them into making his whole life into one great paean to Hashem.

Copyright (c) 1998 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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