Imagine that one has a document that can open the gates of Heaven.
He takes this document and runs with it to the end of the world.
When he finds he is unable to reach Heaven in his lifetime, he gives the document to his children.
And his children go on running with it and keeping it safe, generation after generation.
But with time, the words – with all the beautiful boxes in which the document is safeguarded – are rubbed away.
The people who carry the document are no longer able to read it, and the document itself becomes a faded manuscript.
Later still, it is reduced to a mere piece of paper, and even this piece of paper starts to rot.
Yet each new generation takes this heritage and tries to pass it on.
Eventually, however, the people who carry the empty box that once contained the precious manuscript will discover that they are running very hard and very fast carrying nothing.
And so they will stop running.
In one way or another, this is what is happening to us.
The inscription has faded from our lives.
Some of us still speak about our "message," but we no longer know what it is.
Not only are we ourselves unable to read it; the words have been entirely obliterated.
We have only an empty shell, and even this shell is no longer intact.
So we go on, but for how long does it make sense to run with such an empty thing?
That loss of inner sense is the essence of the problem.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From a talk, "The Time is Short and the Work is Great" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz , 1993