Appel's Parsha Page Parshat Pinchas: Dying a Good Death
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Pinchas(Numbers 25:10-30:1)

Dying a Good Death

Perhaps one of the greatest of human tragedies is when a person who has lived a fine and upright life turns to evil in the twilight of his days. The Talmud tells the story of a greatly respected High Priest, who ministered to the Jewish People for decades. Tragically, in the final years of his life, he came to deny the truth of God and Torah.

In light of this, the Talmud advises that "everyone should repent the day before he dies." Obviously, since no one knows when his day of death will be, the Talmud is recommending to set aside time every day to ponder one's actions. In fact, Jews recite a prayer three times a day asking God for help in repairing our misdeeds.

Many religious figures have stressed the importance of "dying a good death." A beautiful example is found in this week's Torah portion, Pinchas.

In the Parsha, Moses is told by God to prepare to die. Moses' life had been characterized, perhaps more than anything else, by his great dedication to the Jewish People. Time and time again, he went through great travail and turmoil to help them.

Faced with the news that his demise is imminent, Moses -surprisingly - does not ask for a longer life. Instead, his immediate response is to ask God to ensure that the Jewish People are blessed with a proper leader. He prays that the nation should not be like a "flock without a shepherd." Moses' dedication to the people is so great, that he is concerned only with their welfare -even when faced with the specter of his own death.

The commentaries point out the unusual way in which Moses addresses God. Moses refers to the "God of the Spirits," an appellation that is rarely used in Jewish tradition. Rashi explains that the "spirits" referred to here are the souls of the individual Israelites. Moses was alluding to the aspect of God that is sensitive to the needs of each individual. This is the Name of God that Moses invoked when praying that the new leader of Israel should take care of each and every Jew.

Both in life and death, Moses showed himself to be totally at one with his people.

This genuine concern for each individual has become the hallmark of Jewish leadership throughout the centuries. The Talmud in particular, stresses that a leader must understand how everyone has his or her own particular view of reality. The leader must be able to rise above all pettiness - and become the umbrella which both encompasses and protects everyone.

Moses was a master of this. In fact, the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) drives home this point by declaring that "every Jew has a little piece of Moses in him."

The Shlah, a great mystic and Biblical commentator, explains that only the Messiah will equal Moses in his compassion for (and understanding of) each and every Jew. May we merit such leadership, soon in our days.

Published: January 16, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Diana, July 10, 2011 2:09 PM

Dying a Good Death

Very Nice article. It confirms that if/when you live a good life your death is also good. No worry, no problem!

(2) Anonymous, July 5, 2007 12:22 PM

Since learning abput my Jewish heritage.I have been learning about jewish history and law. My mother was full jewish but we did not know about our heritage until my mother told us. she pass this day July 5 2007. Your articles and prays has helped alot. Thanks!

(1) Catherine, July 1, 2007 2:58 PM

Great article..

Awesome comments and article!!loving God and his people are essential to a better bond or closeness with God. We are all not perfect, and we,{Jews, converts, and interested ones that are still searching for the truth and God} are all at different levels of "spirituall understanding", but its important that Gods people stick together, especially now, and be ready to make any required changes if we need to do so, in order that we are walking in Gods ways,fully, and faithfully. Im sure, just as Moses did, with Gods help and direction, im sure just as you had mentioned when the Messiah comes, he will do the same as Moses did. A perfect example he will be, a great leader for the Jewish people, aka "Israel"and all those who Want to follow God and his ways. And it will be an amazing thing to see and be a part of...Thanks for being here for us that have had little if not NO knowledge of God and the truth!!Peace

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