9 Tamuz 5781 / Saturday, June 19, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chukat
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A Moment Too Late    

A Moment Too Late

Any veteran traveler knows that it's better to arrive at the train station a whole hour before it leaves than to arrive a single moment after it pulls away...


What would you think is the greatest power of desire in all of creation? The desire to survive? The desire to protect our young? Would the passionate love of someone you want to spend the rest of your life with qualify? Maybe it's the desire that people have for fame or fortune, which drives them to do anything.


The Gaon of Vilna says none of the above. He writes that the most cogent desire in all of creation of the soul's desire to come back to the physical world the very moment that it leaves.


Our sages' description of the soul's first reaction during the precise moment it leaves the body is a spine-chilling one: it emits a spiritual scream that can be heard from of end of the spiritual realm to the other. The soul shouts with spiritually-deafening intensity, "Let me back in my body, just for a day…for an hour…for a minute…for a second!" It's anguish-laden appeals are worthless. The angel whose task is to accompany the soul to the Heavenly Court tells it, "It's too late now. Your time is up. You had a lifetime of opportunities – every single day and every single moment – to accomplish your mission on earth and to do what you were supposed to…"


The soul, unless it lived a life of emuna and strove to fulfill its designated task on earth, is beside itself with indescribable grief. "Just give me one hour of personal prayer – even one minute!"


"I wish I could," says the merciful angel, "but personal prayer is an amenity of the lowly material world. Those fortunate few who fight temptation, the evil inclination and peer pressure to forsake the follies of a fake Facebook fantasy world and opt to search for Hashem are granted the privilege that the archangels don't even have. Do you think that Gabriel, Michael, Uriel and Raphael barge in to the Heavenly Throne whenever they feel like it? No way! You have no idea what Heavenly protocol is like. Before one receives an audience at the Heavenly Throne, that angel or soul must ascend an entire spiritual hierarchy – it's not simple."


"But I never realized what I could accomplish with a little bit of personal prayer – now I see what it's worth. Pleeeeeeeeease let me back in my body, just for an hour…"


"Sorry, but I'm a simple messenger angel of mercy. My job is to escort you safely to the Heavenly Court so that all the accusing angels that you created with all your misdeeds won't be able to touch you until after your trial of justice upstairs. Besides, your new understanding is spiritually worthless. You're no longer trapped in a body of flesh and blood that blocks Divine light. Now you see the truth. You were supposed to discover this truth while you were still on earth. It's too late now."


"But I just want to judge myself for five minutes! Look how blemished I am. Just five minutes, is that too much to ask for?"


"I don't have the authority to grant such a request. We cannot tarry any longer," says the angel…


Don't think that the above scenario is an attempt to scare you or some imagined folk tale. Ask anyone who ever had an NDE (near-death experience) if it's the real deal or not. It's no wonder that people who did have an NDE radically changed their lives afterwards.


Stop and think what you'd do this very moment if the angel arrived and said, "Your time's up!" Would you go back to chat on Facebook? Would you double-check today's Dow Jones?


Living a full life means that we live every moment as if it's our last one on earth. We must make this moment count, for this moment will never return. It's irreplaceable, so it shouldn't be squandered – ever.


The next time you procrastinate, or put off your personal prayer session until tomorrow, just remember – it could be a moment too late. Grab the opportunity to speak to Hashem right now. You can now understand why the angels are jealous of us folks down here on earth.



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