Is life more blessing or curse? When you add up all the good things in life and all the negative ones, which list is longer?
No surprise then that the consensus in the Talmud agrees with the school of Shammai that “it would have been more pleasant for man to not have been created.”
But then why would a good G-d create a life that is so unpleasant and challenged?
We can find the answer in the strange opening of this this week’s Torah reading: “See that I am endowing you today with both a blessing and a curse.” The expression used here “endowing” is disturbing: What type of endowment (which also means gift) is a curse?! As if G-d is saying here “See that I am gifting you with both a blessing and a curse!” Surely a blessing is a gift, but a curse?!
Same with life: We call it the gift of life. If it is indeed more pleasant not to be created, what sort of “gift” is life?!
A few powerful lines from Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi on this week’s Parsha will allow us to appreciate this gift of life – the blessing and the curse that we are endowed with – which is the greatest gift of all.
One single word, “pleasant,” that Shammai uses, is the key, explains Rabbi Schneur Zalman, to this mystery. And with that he teaches us one of the most important lessons we will ever hear: It’s far more important that life be meaningful than pleasant. It’s a far greater blessing to have an empowered life than an easy one.