Three months ago, on the Festival of Simchat Torah we began reading the Book of Genesis. On the first weekend of January 2023, we conclude the Book of Genesis, with the story of our forefather Jacob who lived his final years in the Land of Egypt. The Torah tells us that despite Jacob’s passing at the age of 147 years old, Jacob never actually died. Since he bonded with G-d, and G-d doesn't die, Jacob never really died. His body did, but he did not. Jacob's life didn't die.
Jacob's life consisted of holy matters, holy thoughts and pursuits, and G-dly aspirations. His days and his nights were spent learning the Torah, observing the Mitzvot, and seeing how he could help the people around him. To him, that was life. Since those are all connected with G-d, who doesn't die, Jacob's life never died. It outlived his body and lived on in the world, specifically in his children.
One must choose carefully when selecting what one wants his or her life to consist of. If a person's life consists of "perishables" like trends and indulgences, which are here and gone before you know it, then... But if a person's life consists of non-perishables, matters having to do with G-d and Torah and service to others, death is no match for that life. That kind of spirit cannot perish. And if that spirit carries on in the person's children, then one remains alive, in the physical children, grandchildren, and descendants forever.
Taking this to the next level, I share here today, “Ten Easy Steps to Cheating Death and Living Forever.” Try incorporating them in your life, one at time. Before you know it, your life be filled with purpose, meaning and eternal living.
1. Recite the Modeh Ani prayer when you wake up each morning. Recognizing that G-d is the source of life, reminds you to attach your habits and routines to G-d throughout your day.
2. Whenever you can, whatever happens, say, "Baruch Hashem – Thank G-d." Thinking about G-d often, even briefly, has a giant impact on quality of life. Baruch Hashem! Thank G-d!
3. Give Tzedakah daily. Give a lot of Tzedakah. Nothing transforms perishable matter to non-perishable energy like giving hard-earned money to Tzedakah.
4. Study Torah every day, even for a few minutes (preferably for as long as you can) and when you learn something interesting and compelling, tell your kids (and/or grandchildren) about it. They need to know that Yiddishkeit doesn't only interest you, it excites you.
5. Bring Shabbat into your home starting on Thursday by baking Challah, cleaning, cooking, shopping or otherwise preparing. Start preparing for major holidays long before they come. Don't do it last second. Treat major Jewish days and dates the way NFL fans treat the Super Bowl: plan ahead, coordinate with friends and family, make it a thing!
6. Make sure your kids or grandchildren see you wearing Tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles. We're in America - people can see you being Jewish. And nothing implants Jewish feelings in
the next generation - the ones who will keep you living forever - like the visuals and the memories of regular, predictable, consistent Mitzvot.
7. Treat trips and vacations like teachable moments. If in the thick of the thrill of a trip to Europe or an Alaskan cruise your Judaism is on your mind and on the tip of your tongue - you remembered to bring Shabbat candles with you AND you know the candle-lighting time where you are - it means this is your life.
8. No matter how late it is or how much you drank, never, ever go to sleep without saying the Shema prayer. That would be like hitting the jackpot and forgetting to cash out. Always remember: Shema first, bed second.
9. Recognize tests when you see them. These are the moments in life when you choose a side. Whenever your faith clashes with your schedule, remember what you want your life to consist of and choose your faith in G-d. It may hurt for a moment, but you will be proud of yourself for years and your quality of life will be non-perishable.
10. Since your life is busy and stressful, make sure you have reminders about all the above, like a nice Kosher Mezuzah on the doors of your residence and business, and fill your library with Jewish books.
That's it. There's more but that's a great start.
Instead of being a miscellaneous person with Jewish moments, be a Jewish person with miscellaneous moments.
Live Yiddishkeit, breathe Yiddishkeit, laugh and cry Yiddishkeit, sleep Yiddishkeit and wake up Yiddishkeit, and you, my friend, together with your indomitable Jewish spirit and your non-perishable G-dly soul, will live forever.
Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel is the Rabbi at Congregation Beit Tefilah Chabad, and the director of Chabad of Nashville