The Keys to Life

The Journey and the Destination – Rabbi Akiva Tatz


י״ז במרחשון ה׳תש״פ (15 בNovember 2019)


Pain itself is pleasurable because it is the means of building the desired result; but there is more. The depth of the pleasure felt in the intensity of the effort is really the anticipation of the result. It is the looking forward to what is being built; the vision of the end-point, that fuels the effort. The dream of the satisfaction of achieving the result provides the pleasure within the pain of the journey. The more one looks forward to the joy of the end-point the more one enjoys the labor of getting there.

You can see this clearly by considering its opposite: imagine you are forced to labor intensely on something which is to be destroyed before it is completed – that would be torture. If you knew that your effort would achieve no result at all, that effort would become sheer pain.

The sweetness of the journey lies in the anticipation of reaching the destination. In every bit of effort, in every moment of exertion, lies the awareness that a part of the result has been built, and that is its happiness. In fact, in many experiences in life, the anticipation is more pleasurable than the result itself.

So the work derives its happiness from the expectation of the end-point.

And amazingly, the end-point derives its happiness from the work! If you think about it deeply, you will realize that the real satisfaction of the result lies in the fact that your work built it! A result which happens without effort, a gift received free, means far less than a result which you labored to achieve.

The depth of your happiness at the journey’s end lies in the effort that you invested to get there. The rich satisfaction you feel when you look at what you have built is really the knowledge of how hard you worked to build it. The delicious taste of a hard-won result derives almost entirely from the knowledge of how hard you worked to get there. In fact, the result is you because you invested yourself to create it.

Why is all this so? Why is the world built this way in the first place? What can we learn about the nature of the world from this understanding of the relationship between work and result, journey and destination?

Life is a journey through the world. And the next world is the destination. The Torah concept is that life is movement, a journey to a destination. The next world is the destination of that journey, and the journey has meaning only because there is a destination.

If you grasp your life as a journey to an amazing destination, the building of an eternal result, the difficulties of life become meaningful. In fact, it is those very difficulties which build the result most significantly.

And our idea of that result is that it is pure pleasure. The Jewish idea of the next world is that it is a dimension of pleasure, and the pleasure is exactly the feeling, the knowledge, that you built it.

Our concept of the next world is that it is a state in which you experience yourself absolutely clearly. No illusions, no facades. Just you. If you have built yourself correctly, achieved your potential through the hard work of a life lived to the full, the result is the ecstasy of being exactly what you should be and knowing that you are the cause of your own achievement. Nothing could bring a deeper happiness.

(And the opposite: our concept of the pain of the next world is the experience, the knowledge, that you could have achieved greatness and failed. If the opportunity of life has been wasted, the pain is immense. And it is nothing other than the pain of a self which might have been, should have been, and was not.)

Life is temporary, but the result is eternal. The work of life may be painful, but it builds a result which is pure happiness and that happiness is forever. In other words, the limited, finite dimension of this world and its effort creates an unlimited dimension of happiness.

And that is why any work in the world which produces a result contains the potential for a feeling of joy: it is a small sample of the joy of life itself.
Since everything in this world is a reflection of the larger reality that creates it, every experience in the world contains a spark of that larger reality. Any experience of building and enjoying the result of that building contains within it the spark of the process of life itself and the joy of translating the limited into the infinite.

The reason that we feel a surge of joy when we build something, achieve something, in this world is because in every small achievement in this world lies the seed of eternity, a reflection of the eternal achievement of a lifetime of work. The energy underlying our experience of any achievement is the same energy that builds the process of translating this world into the next. In every small achievement, every small experience of transforming sweat and effort into a hard-won result, lies the exhilaration of the ultimate achievement of transforming all of life and its effort into an eternal result.

That is why the pleasure felt in the work itself derives from the anticipation of the result, and the pleasure of the result derives from the satisfaction of the hard work done to get there – that is exactly the pattern of life itself: the work of life itself draws inspiration from the knowledge that every moment of difficulty here will live forever in the next world, and the pleasure of the next world is nothing other than all the moments of exertion of the life which built it.

In fact, every pleasure you experience in life derives from nothing less than your future in the next world – that is the essence and nature of pleasure. The sensation of pleasure has a very high source indeed.

Adapted from The Thinking Jewish Teenager's Guide to Life by Akiva Tatz, Published by Targum Press

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