Akavia ben Mehalelel would say: Anyone who takes these four things to heart will never sin again: Where he comes from, where he is going, what he will become, and Who his judge is. [Where does he come from? From a place of darkness. Where is he going? To a dark and cloudy place. What will he become? Dirt, worms, and maggots. And who is his judge?] The King of all kings, the Holy Blessed One.
Rabbi Shimon would say: He comes from a place of darkness, and returns to a place of darkness. He comes from a disgusting drop, from a place that the eye cannot see. And what will he become? Dirt, worms, and maggots, as it says (Job 25:6), “How much less the human – a worm, [the person – a maggot.” Rabbi Elazar ben Ya’akov would say: A worm] in his life, and a maggot in his death. How is he a worm in his life? Because lice infest him. And a maggot in his death? Because of what crawls upon him when he is dead.
Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar would say: I will give you a parable. To what can this be compared? [It can be compared] to a king who built a great palace and took residence there. But there was a gutter filled with animal skins from a tannery that passed right by the entrance to the palace. So everyone who walked by and sat there would say: How beautiful and impressive this palace is! If only there wasn’t a smelly gutter that passed right by! So, too, is the human being. If he is so proud of himself now, when a disgusting stream comes out of his innards, just think how arrogant he would be if he could somehow produce a stream of fine oil, persimmons, and herbal ointments!
When Rabbi Eliezer became sick, his students came to visit him, and they sat before him and said to him: Rabbi, teach us one of the things you’ve taught us before. He said to them: (What shall I teach you?) Be careful to treat one another with respect. When you are praying, know before Whom you stand. By doing this, you will merit life in the World to Come. Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said: We learned [about the status of] five things from Rabbi Eliezer, and we took even greater joy from the knowledge after he passed away than we had while he was alive. And they are: a circular cushion, a ball, a mannequin, an amulet, and a torn prayer box. We asked: What is their status? He replied: They are impure, and he told us to be careful with them, and dip them in water. For these are established laws that were told to Moses on Mount Sinai.