Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot“: ‘The wicked, in their lives, are called “dead.”’ This is because their death is better than their lives, as the pain and suffering they endure for their sustenance is many times greater than the little pleasure they feel in this life.
If we don’t advance towards attaining the source of life, then life turns into an escape from sufferings. All our thoughts are only about how to avoid evil and unpleasantness. Therefore, we don’t imagine the good as a filling, since we cannot fill ourselves, but simply try to find some peace between the bad moments.
As a result, all the pleasures that we feel don’t last more than a short while, and so we are called “dead” even while we are alive, since we don’t receive a filling from the real source of life upon which all of reality and all of creation stand.
Of course, everyone has his own accounts, and if he sees how much pain and suffering he feels, how much he suffered and what efforts he has made compared to the few moments of pleasure that have made him happy and brought him joy, then he discovers that it wasn’t worth living. This whole life can only be justified as a preparation for the spiritual ascent. But if one examines this life as is, there is no point to it.
Now when we are awarded the Torah and Mitzvot (commandments), we are awarded with the real happy and joyful life by keeping them, as it says: “Taste and see that the Creator is good.” This is what those who have attained it feel. Then we can choose between good and evil. After we receive the Torah, the way, the spiritual principles, we begin to work with the two lines.
This is what the writings mean by: “and you shall choose life so that you and your descendants shall live.” Actually it is a repetition: “and you shall choose life so that you shall live.” But it refers to living by keeping the Torah and the Mitzvot. Then one really lives. “But life without the Torah and the Mitzvot is harder than death.”
This is how a person perceives the difference between life and death: Life means spiritual advancement, and death means lack of advancement. A person gradually understands that advancement means getting closer to love, to bestowal, to self annulment, to rising above one’s ego. Only this is called “life,” without any account of what we feel in our egoistic desires.
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 12/11/12, “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”