By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Do you remember that a few years ago the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River? News agencies reported the following about one of the survivors, Marcelo Cruz, who saved his life a second time.
Some years before, police covered him with a tarp, believing he was dead after a shooting incident. He wasn’t; he survived the street fight shooting, but was left paralyzed from the waist down. He rebuilt his life, and at 26, was living in Minneapolis, driving a specially equipped van so he could get around the city.
The day of the collapse he drove onto the Interstate 35W bridge, when the bridge in front of him started to shake and tumble down. He saw several cars in front of him fall into the Mississippi River. Cruz plowed the van into a concrete guard rail to stop the vehicle on the sloping bridge. The van stopped, less than 15 feet from what was now the end of the bridge. Finally, two rescue workers saw him and helped him reach safety.
This was the second time he saved his life. After he was helped by the rescuers he said: “You really have to enjoy every day, because you don’t know if it’s your last.”
He was right. We can’t know when life will come to an end; we know only that it does end. Why didn’t God give us the possibility to know that? A 12th century Bible commentary called Yalkut Shimoni (Kohelet 968) says: “If God did not conceal from each person the day of his or her death, no one would build a house, and no one would plant a vineyard, because each person would say, ‘Tomorrow I will die; why should I work for others?’ Therefore, God concealed the day of a person’s death so that he or she would build and plant.”
So, what do we have to do? Rabbi Milton Steinberg, who died when he was 47 years old, wrote: “We cannot know what the quantity of our life will be, so we must deepen its quality. We must make up for the threatened brevity of life by heightening the intensity of our lives. We must treasure one another in the knowledge that we cannot know how long we shall have one another.”
Because we do not know when the last day will come, we should live every day as if it is our last. So, let us ask ourselves, if this is our last day, what would we be doing differently? Are we doing all that we can and are capable of doing? We are reminded to spend life wisely.