Shakespeare says, “Life’s but a walking shadow… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
Chai Ga’on said, “Life is a terrible disease cured only by death”.
Sholem Aleichem said, “Life is a blister on top of a tumour, and a boil on top of that”.
If you have that belief, life’s just a fraud, hardly worth praying for.
Longfellow had a different view: “Life is real, life is earnest”. So did God, who said, “I give you a choice – choose life!”.
Nobody asks to be born (Avot 4:22). Some people have one tragedy after another.
Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai debated (Eruv.13b) whether it was good for Man to have been created; whatever the philosophical answer the practical outcome was simple: “Since Man has been created, let him use life wisely”.
So when we pray for life, let’s choose three goals – to live, celebrating life’s good things; to live well, investing every moment with wisdom; and to live better still, to make the most of ourselves and enrich the world.
The Kotzker Rebbe asked, “Why do people weep when they say, ‘Man comes from dust and ends in dust’?
“We could understand if the book said, ‘Man comes from gold and ends in dust’, but if we come from dust and never rise any higher, that’s indeed good reason to weep”.