Thomas Aquinas died on this date 747 years ago. Accordingly, I decided to see what came up first with a quick search about Aquinas on death. I was led to the Summa Theologiae and, specifically, to Question 69 on “Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death.”
During his lifetime, Thomas Aquinas considered many questions that most people would never consider at all. Take, for example, Article 4 of Question 69 in which he asks: “Whether the limbo of hell is the same as Abraham’s bosom?”
I had not heard (or didn’t particularly recall hearing) of “Abraham’s bosom” but a detailed Wikipedia article discusses the concept as it appears in the Bible, Jewish and Christian history, and religious art and literature.
“I’ve never tried cocaine or heroin but I believe the people that tell me it’s a very pleasing, pleasurable feeling,” began Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski in this talk.
He goes on to discuss how Carnation has long sold evaporated milk with the slogan, “Milk from contented cows.” The rabbi continues, “If contentment is the excellence of a cow and all I look for in life is contentment, then I share a goal in life with a cow, and I’m not ready to lower myself to that stage.”
Rabbi Twerski thought there’s nothing wrong with being content but that making contentment a goal of life is an animal trait, not the human vocation.
In my Jewish course on death, Journey of the Soul: A Fresh Look at Life, Death, and the Rest—in Peace, we learned the tale depicted in the video below about a Jewish billionaire whose request to be buried with his favourite socks was denied.
Take a look:
As the rabbi teaching my class said, “When we die, we don’t take our bank accounts with us, but only our charitable receipts.”
Yesterday I started a six-week course called Journey of the Soul: A fresh look at life, death, and the rest–in peace. Throughout the course, we study death in its philosophical, emotional, and practical dimensions.
One highlight from the first session was hearing an anecdote about Rabbi Dovber of Meseritch.
I just flipped open to an essay by Elie Wiesel entitled, “The Death of My Father” which begins with the words: “The anniversary of the death of a certain Shlomo ben Nissel falls on the eighteenth day of the month of Shevat.” Since it was just recently Tu B’Shvat [the fifteenth day of Shevat], it so happens that today is the eighteenth day of this Hebrew month.
Since his father was murdered in Buchenwald, Wiesel discusses finding himself unable to conform to the ritual traditions of Jewish mourning that include going to synagogue, studying the Mishnah, saying the orphan’s Kaddish, and proclaiming God’s holiness.
Today is both International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat. The coinciding of a solemn commemoration with a celebration of the trees and fruits of Israel makes me reflect on all the tenacious ways that new life is sometimes brought forth from barren situations.
Today an article appeared in my newsfeed titled, “Rabbi Yehuda Dukes, 39, Inspired Thousands in Health and in Sickness.” In it, I learned that Rabbi Dukes, much-loved around the world and most especially by his wife and their six children, passed away from Covid.
What I found most striking was this interview the rabbi gave in August. Upon recovering from months in a coma, Rabbi Dukes spoke over a video call about his experiences and was honest about the excruciating physical pain he faced in addition to the anguish of being separated from his family.
It would be understandable if, upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, a person were to retreat, to withdraw.
But that’s not Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka’s way. Instead, as ever, he continues to show leadership, to give example, and, above all, to generously go outside of himself for the good of others.
It seems that every time there is a tragedy or crisis, particularly in which his community or he himself is implicated, Rabbi Bulka has something to say with humility, sincerity, and gratitude.
Lately I have been reading Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim. In his Introduction, Buber discusses how “the core of hasidic teachings is the concept of a life of fervour, of exalted joy” and that “The world in which you live, just as it is and not otherwise affords you that association with God, which will redeem you and whatever divine aspect of the world you have been entrusted with.”
Yesterday I attended a webinar themed, “New Year’s Resolutions, Jewish Style” led by David and Chana Mason.
In Judaism, there is the custom of wishing another person, “May you live until 120.” The number signifies the fullness of a life well lived – derived from the Biblical account that “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eyes were undimmed and his vigour unabated.” (Deut. 34:7)