Month 2:17, Week 3:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year:Day 5936:046 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 7 May 2012
Late Chag haMatzah 2012
3. Of Human and Animal Spirits
Continued from Part 4
A friend has asked me to explain this very interesting passage from Ecclesiastes, the book in which Solomon philosophies about life, and particularly his own experience in pursuing the follies of the flesh. He concludes it by saying that the summum bonum or conclusion concerning life is that we should fear Yahweh and obey His mitzvot (commandments) because He will bring every single work of ours to mishpat (judgment), exposing every ne'lam (secret thing) whether it be tov (good) or rah (evil) (Eccl.12:13-14).
"I said in my lev (heart), 'Concerning the condition of the sons of men, Elohim (God) tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.' For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one ruach (breath); man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the ruach (spirit) of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth? So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?" (Eccl.3:18-22, NKJV).
In today's passage Solomon explains the reason why Yahweh's judgment on the wicked in particular appears agonisingly delayed to us. Why isn't it instantaneous? According to Solomon, the reason is that we are incapable of understanding His distributive justice and the reason we cannot is because we live such a short lifespan. How can we possibly understand the bigger picture especially when we:
Because we are all inter-connected, and because each and everyone of us is working out his or her own salvation within a carefully crafted environment based on the individual choices of those who surround us (and even on a bigger scale in the case of government legislation, war, etc.), the timing of events has to be done with great care and precision in order that Yahweh is fair. However, because so many people are involved, justice cannot reasonably be apportioned out until everyone concerned has had the opportunity to fully make the choices that life requires of them within the carefully allotted time period. On top of that, there is also individual as well as collective responsibility and justice, because Yahweh doesn't just judge us as individuals but also as families, tribes, nations and the planet as a whole. These are considerations we tend to miss as we are prone to see things only on an individual basis.
- 1. Live such a short period of time; and
- 2. Have little clue what the bigger picture is?
I have, in particular, though, been asked to explain verse 21:
All this verse means is that upon death the human ruach (spirit) goes up to the heavenlies - that is, the spirit world - and the physical body (here also called a 'spirit') joins the beasts in the soil, as Solomon explains a little later on based on his limited knowledge of these things:
"Who knows the ruach (spirit) of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?"
In its simplest external sense, Solomon is saying that the breath that Yahweh breathed into Adam returns to Him at Adam's death and the body returns to the soil from which it was originally shaped. At a deeper level, it means that that which is our essential self (which is spiritual) returns to the spiritual dimension from which is originally came and the physical body disintegrates into its component molecules in the earth along with all other animal and plant life.
"Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the ruach (spirit) will return to Elohim (God) who gave it" (Eccl.12:7, NKJV).
Try not to get confused over the interchangeable use of words like 'spirit' and 'flesh' which is common in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Even Solomon says he doesn't know about these things: "Who knows...?" Some groups, like Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Christadelphians, and many Messianics try to make a great theological ado about these words and try to imply that we cease to exist altogether at death. This is a dangerous error. Please see the articles and discussions on Soul-Sleeping which resolve this confusion.
Solomon was, in any case, simply making a point about the perplexities of life and advising us not to try and figure it all out, because we won't succeed. Much of Ecclesiastes is quite cynical - this not Solomon at his most spiritual. He is a disappointed and disillusioned man who has pursued the pleasures of the flesh and tried to make sense of out the happenings of people down here on earth. And he realises that we cannot. Rather, he concludes that in the end it's all about character development and obedience, whether we'll trust in Yahweh and do His will or not, for only then will we make head and tail of it all.
The message of Chag haMatzah, and particularly this late one, is to focus on getting the leaven of sin out of our own lives and to let Yahweh take care of the final judgment, especially when we have been wronged. Many of us have been grievously wronged and we cry out for justice, especially when we have lost loved ones to evil people. We must seek to do what is right, seek justice by righteous means but leave the explanation of the 'why's' and 'wherefore's' to a time beyond this life. Only He knows.
Continued in Part 5