Musings of a Newly Minted Grandfather
Last week our daughter-in-law, Musya, gave birth to our first grandchild; a beautiful, healthy baby boy, named Tzemach.
We are all grateful to G‑d for His blessings and miracles and thrilled by the new addition to our family.
Tzemach has transformed us all
Tzemach has transformed us all. Our firstborn son just became a father. That upgrades us, his parents, into grandparents, our children into uncles and aunt, my siblings into great uncles and great aunt, my parents into great grandparents. For my parents-in-law this is a special milestone: being that my wife is their youngest daughter, they now have achieved a new accomplishment; all of their children are now grandparents...
We are all absolutely delighted. All of our family and friends are happy for us and celebrating this important milestone with us.
But, what about Tzemach himself? How does he feel about this all?
Before he was born, his soul was peacefully basking in the presence of his Creator, quite happy and secure in the World of Truth.
By what justification would one want to pull him out of there and thrust him into this world filled with so much darkness, conflict, hate, treachery, dishonesty and misery? Just listen to him cry as he enters this world. He seems to know exactly where he landed... In fact one of the reasons for the Sholom Zochor, the welcoming of the new baby boy the first Friday night of his life, is in order to accompany the newly descended soul in his "bereavement"…
Do we have the right to bring him into such an inhospitable world just in order to make ourselves happy?
The answer is quite simple. Yes; this is part of G‑d's plan. My grandson would never be able to realize his G‑dly potential in the supernal world of truth and tranquillity as fully as in this world of concealment and challenge.
In the World of Truth the soul sees, understands and feels G‑d's presence clearly. In the World of Truth there are no Atheists nor Agnostics. The truth is evident. But there's a catch: the soul's understanding and feeling is limited; limited by its own limitations. It is only by descending into this world of spiritual darkness that it can activate, express and connect with a dimension of truth that transcends its natural limitations. It is here on earth, and only here, that it is given the opportunity to fulfill G‑d's will and generate a light infinitely beyond the reaches of its limited feelings and understanding. In the world of Truth, the soul relates to and nourishes itself from G‑d's wisdom; it is here on earth that it can connect itself with and express G‑d's will.
G‑d is a good businessman. He wouldn't invest valuable resources into a proposition that would not yield something of more value and benefit than that which was originally there. If G‑d sends a soul down to earth, it is because it can accomplish more "here" than "there".
We should be celebrating our own arrival to this world as well
What is it that G‑d desires the soul to accomplish here that cannot be done "there"?
The soul's main purpose is to illuminate. That can only happen in a place of darkness. The greater the darkness, the greater the accomplishment when that darkness is transformed into light. To paraphrase the Zohar: What purpose can a candle fulfill in broad daylight?
Now that we have assuaged our guilt regarding bringing a new soul into this world, we can shift the focus onto ourselves. Do we live our lives in a way that justifies the descent of our soul into this world?
This world is the world of accomplishment; the world-to-come is one of reward and pleasure. Does our daily behavior and personal priorities reflect this understanding? Many of us tend to dedicate too much effort towards pursuing pleasure in this life, forfeiting opportunities to do that which we were meant to accomplish, thereby diminishing the "return on the investment"... (Actually, it's not even a matter of Pleasure vs. Accomplishment because it is precisely by fulfilling our mission that we ultimately generate satisfaction and pleasure infinitely superior to any pleasure this earthly life can offer.)
As we celebrate the birth of a new member of our family and people, it's an opportunity to stop for a moment and remind ourselves that we should be celebrating our own arrival to this world as well. And then we should ask ourselves: are we doing enough to generate the maximum return on the investment?
First published in English on Chabad.org