Let My People Know

"Death is but a step toward new life"


"A body dies; there is no more life in it.


But what does this mean?


It means that its matter will now undergo a transformation—a radical one, perhaps—from a certain liv­ing creature into foodstuff for another creature.


The living cells may disintegrate into simpler elements but will be recomposed into another form of life.


Such a tremendous change is quite unlike the ordinary changes in that creature's life.


Even so, it is not an essential change: the living form has merely undergone one more change in the endless chain of alterations.


The embryo begins in a tiny ovum, a single cell of life that was fertilized. It divides and subdivides, is filled with furrows that become deeper and deeper and turn into empty bundles that gradually are filled with matter, turn into limbs, and continue to alter.


Each such change is death and life.


The previous form dies, and a new form takes shape from it.


The fish in the embryo dies and is transformed into a tailed frog, and the frog in its turn becomes some other monster, a triton or a salamander.


Then this form dies and turns into something else: a rab­bit, a falcon, a man.


This is the resurrection of the dead—not in the ordinary way, but in its precise simple and lit­eral meaning.


And when a body is born, when exactly does it begin to "live"?


It merely begins a new series of transformations, a new cycle of life and death.


Thus, when the moment of death arrives, it is but another transformation, one of many that living matter undergoes.


Now, after its death, it begins to live again, in a different form.


Surely, this sudden transformation frightens us and makes us feel sorry for the sudden disappearance of the previous form, which we knew and loved, and for its sub­stitution by a new form that is foreign and meaningless to us.


This sorrow of eternal farewell will never change; it is our subjective sorrow.


But apart from our personal, lim­ited emotions, death is but a step toward new life: strange, different, unrelated to us, but life nevertheless, just like the other life that we knew and loved.


Death is terrible, but it is terrible only from our own personal, limited viewpoint, which is attached to certain forms.


Let us, then, distance ourselves from our preference for certain forms that are close to our hearts, and try to see things from a place where everything is equally close to us, equally loved by us.


Or, in more precise words, let us try to see things from the perspective of the Creator, with Godly eyes."

 –Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From On Being Free, in "And His Tender Mercies Extend over All His Works" p. 211 by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz