What’s On Your Bucket List?April 30, 2020 - 12:00 am
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.”—Leviticus 19:32
Each week in synagogue or at home, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1—20:27. Acharei Mot means death, and Kedoshim means holy.
Many people have a bucket list of what they’d like to do before they die. For most people, the list is made up of places to go, things to buy, and experiences to try. While it is important to live life to the fullest, I think we are selling ourselves short if the list begins and ends with material pleasures.
Recently, I came across an old sermon that my father Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein wrote about living life to the fullest. He spoke about laughing and loving, getting less and giving more, complaining less and complimenting more, blessing others and serving God. Of all the things that we can do as long as God gives us life, it is our spiritual work that matters most and the only “things” that last forever.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read: “Stand up in the presence of the aged…” Translated literally, the verse reads, “Before old age, you shall rise.” Traditionally, we understand that this verse directs us to show respect to the elderly. But taking the literal meaning into account, we arrive at an alternative message: Rise up — raise up your soul — before you reach old age.
Old age has many blessings, but also plenty of limitations. This certainly is what motivates many people to cross off items on their bucket list while they are able! They take that trip or buy that car or tackle that physical challenge. However, the Bible teaches us that we must also utilize our vitality for spiritual purposes.
We can make lists of things we’d like to acquire, but let’s also make lists about what we’d like to contribute. As we set goals for our bodies, let’s also set goals for our souls. Instead of asking, “How much pleasure can I still experience in the time I have left?” we need to ask, “How much pleasure can I give to the LORD with the time I have been given?”
That’s a bucket list that has eternal value.
Your turn: What five spiritual goals would you like to achieve in the next five years?