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Iyar 10

Wrongdoers are referred to as having died even while they live (Berachos 18b).

Animals grow and develop until they reach physical maturity. Thereafter, animals do only those actions necessary to survive, but they do not grow significantly in any way.

Human beings are distinctly different. While they do stop growing at physical maturity, their minds have a limitless capacity to grow intellectually and spiritually. This difference leads to another. Animals survive by adapting themselves to the world, but human beings can change the world according to their desires.

We can thus subdivide human life into an animal-physical phase, where growth ends with physical maturity, and a human-intellectual/spiritual phase, which should continue as long as we live. If people neglect intellectual-spiritual growth and indulge only in physical needs and desires, their human phase of life has stopped growing and therefore has essentially died, and only the animal phase continues to live.

The Talmud's reference to wrongdoers is to those people who neglect their intellectual-spiritual growth and seek only to maintain their physical lives. They have therefore allowed their unique human aspect to die.

No self-respecting, rational people would ever degrade themselves to a subhuman existence. While we pray to God to grant us life, it is our task to make that life truly human.

Today I shall...

try to realize that abandoning myself completely to actions that merely maintain my physical self is degrading, and I therefore shall take pride in being fully human.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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