Vayechi – Life Cycles

 In the concluding Torah portion for the Book of Breishis, parshas Vayechi, Yaakov passes away and the Torah relates that the brothers mourned for seven days (Breishis 50:10). The last Medrish Tanchuma in the book of Breishis concludes that from this pasuk we learn the laws of shiva, the day mourning period following the death of a close relative. The medrish then asks why the mourning period is for exactly seven days?, and answers that it is contrary to the seven days of partying for a wedding, sheva brachos. The Etz Yosef, quoting the Yifeh Toar, asks what does one have to do with the other,  that the text of medrish (which the Etz Yosef says we don’t have) says “just as he comes he will go?” The Yefeh Toar explains that this hints to the fact that there is no point to life in this world, and its joys, because in the end a person will die;, just as he comes he will go. Therefore, just as the days of partying we have for a wedding, which is for the sake of having children (if Hashem grants the couple to have children), is for 7 days, so too the days of mourning are the same amount. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
 We must put in context what it means that there is no point to life and happiness in this world. For if that is really true, then why have days of feasting by a wedding, and what about what the Mesilas Yesharim says in the first chapter, “…but the path to the object of our desires is this world, as our sages of blessed memory have said, ‘This world is like a corridor to the World to Come (Avos 4:21).’ The means which lead a man to this goal are the mitzvos, in relation to which we are commanded by G-D, may His name be blessed. The place of the performance of the mitzvos is this world alone.” If that is the case than doesn’t this world have a very important role in our lives and the Torah even says in the curses of parshas Ki Savo “because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D amid joy…” (Devarim 28:47). So we see how important life is in this world, as well as living it up happily and serving Hashem with joy. s So how can the Yefeh Toar be saying there is no point to life and happiness in this world?

However,, the answer is, that vis a vis the World to Come, this world is nothing, as the Medrish Tanchuma concludes, “The Holy One Blessed Be He said that in this world you are pained over the righteous, mourning for 7 days. In the future to come I will switch their mourning to glee and comfort them and cheer them up from their depression (Yirmiyahu 31:12). And I will comfort Tzion and its destruction, as it says, ‘For Hashem will comfort Tzion, He will comfort all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden and her wasteland like a garden of Hashem; joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music’ (Yeshayahu 51:3).
 The Medrish Rabba concludes Sefer Breishis the same way as the Tanchuma, and the Yefeh Toar there explains that “this pasuk is only a hint to the concept of seven days of shiva but it’s not a Torah level obligation. Mourning for seven days is only Rabbinic. Since that’s the case the medrish was wondering why the rabbis enacted mourning to be for that long, isn’t there a punishment for mourning over the dead too much (See Devarim 14:1)? That is why the medrish answers that 7 days is opposite the sheva brachos, 7 days of feasting by a wedding. (Sheva brachos is learned from Shimshon in Pirkei diRebbe Eliezer, parenthetically.) Since it’s better to go to a mourners house then to go to a party house, and the hearts of the wise are at a mourners house and the hearts of fools are in a party house, therefore the days [of celebrating and mourning] are equal… there is another reason [why they are equated] because the days of feasting by a wedding has a connection to the days of burial, for since a person is destined to die, therefore he feels compelled to try to have children, and ensure offspring… Therefore, the days of mourning were set up as 7 days just as the days of partying after a wedding.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
  If it is so bad to mourn too much over the dead, then why is it permissible to set up these seven days of mourning just to equate it to the seven days of partying at after a wedding? Isn’t it still going overboard;, why risk the punishment?

However, it would seem that the lesson learned from equating them two is such an important lesson that it’s worth it for the Rabbis to enact seven days of mourning. In fact, the reason for the punishment of overly mourning is the same as for Shiva, to realize that this world is temporary and we should not put too much focus on it, as mentioned in the Sforno Devarim 14:1, “there is no reason to mourn excessively for the person who has passed as he, at least, has not experienced any loss, on the contrary, he has been promoted to the region of eternal life, something of which our sages in Avos 4:6-7 have said that a single hour of the serenity experienced in that life is worth all the combined delights ever experienced during one’s transient life on earth.”

There is definitely a very important attitude to live life and enjoy it in this world;, it is the corridor to prepare yourself for the ultimate joy of basking in Hashem’s presence in the next world and part of the preparation is to be happy while serving Hashem. That is part of living life properly, but it must be with the perspective that it is just temporary, it’s not the beginning and end of life. There is much more to life than this world and the real joy is in the World to Come. This equation puts one’s mindset into the proper perspective, if focused on accurately, that as important this world is the main place to look forward to is the World to Come.