"Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?...I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with emaning. That I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here. Do you understand what I am saying? .... I did not want to sound morbid. I only wanted to tell you that I am doing things I consider very important now. If I could not do these things, my life would have no value. Merely to live, merely to exist--what sense is there to it? A fly also lives." - (Potok, 217)
"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." - James 4:14
"Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' " - James 4:15
"I waste away; I will not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath." - Job 7:16
""If I should wash myself with snow / And cleanse my hands with lye, / Yet You would plunge me into the pit, / And my own clothes would abhor me. / For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, / That we may go to court together. / There is no umpire between us, / Who may lay his hand upon us both. " - Job 9:30-33
""Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah." - Psalm 39:5
"And now, Lord, for what do I wait? / My hope is in You. / Deliver me from all my transgressions; / Make me not the reproach of the foolish. " - Psa 39:7-8
"Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow." - Psalm 144:4
"Stretch forth Your hand from on high; / Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, / Out of the hand of aliens / ... / I will sing a new song to You, O God; / Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, / Who gives salvation to kings, / Who rescues David His servant from the evil sword. / Rescue me and deliver me out of the hand of aliens," Psalm 144:7, 9-11
Reuven's father comes to understand that life itself is short. That importance does not lie in life itself but the human being, the soul, that inhabits that life. Yet as a result of this premise, he assumes that he must DO.
It is true that life is transient and that it is the being that matters more than the life; the soul prevails over breath. And yet because of that we must praise Him who gave life; how can we repay; how can we earn; how can we MAKE our lives worthwhile when we had no hand in its creation in the first place? We cannot simply walk up to the giver of life, we cannot assume that we can make our lives worthy... and for that I am so very thankful and relieved.