It was taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: When one comes into the world his hands are clenched as if to say: the whole world is mine and I will inherit it. And when one takes leave of the world his hands are open, as if to say: I have not taken from this world a single thing.
Fascinating: The Midrash examines what is the underlying reason for the contrast between the hands of a newborn baby and that of one who has just died. When a baby is born its hands are tightly clenched. In fact, one of the earliest “games” we play with our infants is placing our fingers inside their tiny hands and they clench their fist and grab it.
Whereas the hands of a corpse lay lifelessly wide open. Why?
The Midrash explains that a newborn fools himself into believing that he has the power to conquer the world. This is symbolized with his tightly clenched hands. It is as if he were saying that he will take hold and seize this world. However, when that individual dies, those same hands lay wide open in acknowledgement of the fact that he has taken absolutely nothing from this world. We die and we can take nothing.