“Our Rabbis taught: Seven things are hidden from men... the day of death, and the day of comfort, the depth [extent] of judgment; and man does not know what is in his neighbor's heart; from what will he earn [a living]; and when the Davidic dynasty will return; and when the wicked kingdom will come to an end” (Pesachim 54b).
Not surprisingly, the things that the ancients fretted over 2,000 years ago are the same basic concerns of today. Of course, fear of death tops the list, and social scientists conclude that it stems from the natural human “survival instinct.” But what of the others?
Of the 7 items listed as unknowable, the most profound and important is “the day of comfort.” This is a reference to the alleviation of one’s troubles and anxieties. While bad times often feel interminable, they do eventually end. If a person knew the length of time their troubles would endure, then they would have no reason to take action, to pray or ask God for help.
“The depth [extent] of judgment;” refers to how our actions affect the Divine scale, while “What is in his neighbor's heart” addresses the basic human insecurity and need to feel respected by fellow human beings.
“From what will he earn [a living]” is a powerful reflection on the fear that most people feel at some point in their lives, which has become especially relevant in this past decade of economic insecurity. This same question has troubled humankind since Adam ate Eve’s apple.
The final two items on this list, the return of the Davidic dynasty and the end of the wicked kingdom, are both references to the Messianic era. While at first one might argue that this is not a common modern worry, reread the second statement. How many men and women have gathered together to “occupy” wherever they are? People long to live in a system they feel is fair and in which they feel they have a chance to succeed.
As much as life has changed over the last 2,000 years, human nature and human fears have not.