When a young person’s life is taken, we count the years of his or her life. And we say, “How sad. How short a life.”

But life is not about the quantity of years. It’s not about the quantity of anything. Life is about purpose, about meaning.

There are long lives with little meaning. And there are short lives that never cease to shine.

Consider the life of Rabbi Yosef Karo, the greatest scholar in Israel of the 16th century. Rabbi Karo kept a diary in which he recorded wisdom he had received from a heavenly being he called “the Magid.”

Repeatedly, this Magid would remind Rabbi Karo that due to his dedication and piety, his soul was destined for the greatest heights a Jew could attain, to rise in a flaming pyre to heaven.

In other words, he would die al kiddush Hashem—his life would be taken for being a Jew.

For whatever reason—we do not know—Rabbi Karo lost out on the privilege that had been promised him. His grief was unconsolable.

Instead, he continued on with his life project and completed the Shulchan Aruch, the halachic code that Jews will follow until the Messianic Era. He died a natural death at the age of 87. His light shines to this day.

Yet, for Rabbi Karo, all this was a distant second best. He would have thrown it all away for the short life of a Jew whose life was taken just for the fact that he was a Jew. He cried over his loss of that distinction.

Rabbi Karo threw his soul into teaching Torah to the entire Jewish people. These precious young Jews gave their bodies, as well. They were killed because they were Jews, members of a nation that is one as G‑d is one, who have an eternal share in that oneness. There is nothing greater. Not even writing the Shulchan Aruch.

The signature of Rabbi Yosef Karo
The signature of Rabbi Yosef Karo

No, we cannot understand. But there is nothing higher.

And in truth, a Jew never dies. We, the Jewish people, live forever.

We will all return one day. The darkness, the evil, and the lies will vanish like a dream, and all that was ever true, good, and real will be for eternity. At that time, not only our souls, but our bodies, too, will return and they will shine.

And the bodies that will shine the brightest are those that were offered up for G‑d and for His eternal nation, Israel.

Dedicated in tribute to the holy Jews who lost their lives at the hands of the Hamas butchers on Simchat Torah, and to the holy chayalim who laid down their lives so that the inhabitants of the Holy Land can live securely in peace.

See Likutei Sichot vol. 21, pg. 176. Sicha 5, 12th Nisan, 5733. Ohr HaTorah (Tzemach Tzedek) Dvarim volume 5, pg. 2138.