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Ecclesiastes, Fleeting and timeless
common denominator of all these doctrines is a detachment from life, a
dismissal of material existence in favor of a radically different reality.
Judaism, too, shares the idea
of the afterlife; however, it is rarely the focus of Jewish practice, and
the rabbinic texts avoid engaging in lengthy descriptions of it.15
By contrast, it is a central feature of the thinking found in Tibet,
Mecca, and the Vatican, that by means of constant, detailed attention to
the world beyond, this life becomes merely a treacherous pass leading to
the next. Indeed, detachment from the world is almost the definition of
true piety in some religions, many of which wholeheartedly embrace the
meaninglessness of mortal existence. In these cultures, the more one seeks
immortality, the more one detaches oneself from the physical world.
a result of the prevalence of this asceticism in history, many people,
including Jews, have unconsciously become accustomed to seeing everyday
life as separate from spiritual existence. And since most of us embrace
involvement in the real world, hoping like Kohelet to make our mark in it,
we must naturally wonder whether this makes our life less meaningful. In
other words, if we focus on earthly reality and worldly wisdom, are we,
therefore, necessarily less close to God?
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