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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

What are we to make of the end of the Mayan calendar, some marking it as the coming end of the world?

This is not the first time, and probably not the last time, that someone, or some group, has predicted the end of the world. All previous predictions were wrong, so there is no reason to believe that this prediction is any different.

Each false prediction is followed by an explanation for why the prediction did not come about. The explanations are usually as absurd as the predictions themselves. The puzzling matter is why this keeps on coming up, and despite a most dismal track record of being wrong 100 per cent of the time, we still seem to take notice. Who cares? Why bother being bothered?

Perhaps, and a very big perhaps, the predictions about the end of the world awaken within us an existential angst, angst about whether we are worthy of the world continuing. The doomsayers certainly are convinced that we are not worthy, and that therefore God will kick us out by ending the world.

Perhaps we are scared because we are not secure in the feeling that we deserve the world in which we live. If that is the case, then the question we need to ask ourselves is a more basic one - what can we do to make ourselves worthy of the world? Even if we were certain that there is only a week left to our life, or the life of the universe, that question remains valid.

Confronting that question, and how we respond to it, is a much more useful exercise than is wasting time and anxiety over whether the world is coming to an end.

So, in an ironic way, this eternally arising question may actually have some usefulness. If it serves to awaken within us the critical question of whether we have done anything to make this world a better place in which to live, then it is most useful. And if, because we ask ourselves this question, we actually come up with good answers that we humbly, not arrogantly, put into action, then even better.

But for that to unfold, we do not need world-ending calendars. All we need is to take our existence seriously.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on  December 15, 2012

Mon, December 11 2017 23 Kislev 5778