The Examined Life

Yes, I also read the health studies that advise eating this and avoiding that. I don’t always adhere to the recommendations, but I follow them as if, well, as if my life depended on it.

At the same time, I know that you cannot savor life if you worry constantly about extending it. Living is not a contest for duration but a pageant of meaning. Grateful as I am for the drugs that put my cancer in remission, and the studies that made my eating healthier (sometimes), and the devotion of experts in all fields, I am also aware that everyone’s days are numbered and measured more in meaning than in minutes.

My father once told me he thought Methuselah was the saddest man in the Bible. Imagine, he said, living 969 years, bearing children and not having a single accomplishment worth recording — not even that he was a good father to those same children. Not one single action that changed his world for the better. We who live for brief spans can do that each day. None of us is granted immortality, but all of us can live in a way that touches eternity.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.