First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/bamidbar-deathless-future/
Baal Haturim Numbers: Bamidbar
I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. -Woody Allen
Western man is allergic to death. We try to avoid it, escape it, ignore it. We don’t want it mentioned. If we close our eyes, perhaps it won’t notice us. The counterpoint to death-avoidance is the desire to want to live forever. To be forever young.
Interestingly, the Torah also has a death-avoidance culture, but one that translates into ritual “impurity” if one is in contact with death, and which subsequently can be “purified”. Within the Jewish people, there is a subgroup that is commanded as a whole to avoid death. They are the Kohanim, the priestly descendents of Aharon, the original High Priest (Kohen Gadol).
While death is a fact of life, there are some hints that it is not necessarily a permanent arrangement.
In describing the work that the sons of Aharon, the Kohanim, must do in the Tabernacle, the Torah ends the description with the warning, that if they follow the rules, “they will live and they will not die.”
Why the redundancy? It would seem obvious that if someone is going to live they will not die.
The Baal Haturim explains that this is a prophetic hint. On the verse in Numbers 4:19 he details that at some future date, in some eschatological reality, the very Angel of Death will be annulled. Death will have no more sway over humanity.
Humans, or whatever we will be in that future (disembodied souls?) will indeed somehow live forever.
May we be beings worthy of eternal life.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Shavuoth Sameach,
To our departed loved ones, who we believe we will be reunited with in some future reality.