Life and Death- Pashas Korach

In this week’s Parsha we learn about the interplay between life and death through the Tahara of the Parah Adumah. But why does death bring to Tumah begin with? And how does the Parah impact that?

There is also another question. As we know death is brought about through the Malach HaMaves- the angel of death. But if we examine life, we know that we do not own our life. Our life is a gift from HaShem. But it is not just a one-time gift that we get when we are born, and is ours till it is taken away. Instead, at every given moment, HaShem is constantly re-infusing us with a new gift of life for that specific moment. So then, why is there a need for the Malach HaMaves? All that needs to happen is that HaShem would stop giving us life and then that would be the end. Why the need for such a Malach? And when we examine that Malach, we find out that he is also the Yetzer HaRa who provides us with Nisayon (thank you very much), and the Satan who is the prosecutor against us in Heaven, and ultimately the Malach HaMaves who punishes us[1]! And Chazal taught us that a Malach can only have one purpose? What is the connection between these three functions?

If we go back to the beginning, there was no Malach HaMaves. The reason I can say that is because there was no Maves- death. HaShem created Adam to live eternally in Gan Eden. But HaShem did warn Adam that if he sinned, then he will die. So even though there was no actual Malach HaMaves- there was a potential one. Where did that potential lie? It was in the Satan, the snake. There was a Yetzer HaRa. It was different than our Yetzer HaRa, in that it was external to us rather than internal. It was an objective choice rather than a more confusing subjective choice. It was the choice between truth and falsehood, rather than between good and bad. But it was there. When Adam sinned, HaShem does not allow the snake to excuse itself. Rashi says that it was going to claim, that Adam was responsible for his own actions. HaShem did not allow the snake to speak[2]. But here we see that the snake/Satan first tempted, then tried to prosecute. And even though the Satan could not speak against Adam, his function as Malach HaMaves was transformed from the potential to the actual.

So death was not a part of Adam in the way he was created but was brought into the world through his sin. But it was not meant to be a permanent change, that man should always die. Man was meant to recover and repent from the sin of Adam and return to Gan Eden, where man is meant to live the way he was originally created without death. And every person will at some point experience that when there is Techiyas HaMeisim. At that point not only will their Neshama be perfected, but every single human being’s body will be corrected and cleansed and be like the body of Adam that it has eternal life, the way it was originally created to be.

Therefore all death is actually a spiritual lack that arises from the sin of Adam. The Tumah of death is because that is the ultimate place where the sin of Adam still affects us.

If that sin would have changed Adam from being someone who was eternal and his body would have been changed to “expire” (with an expiration date) then the effect of the sin would have been that there could be no Techiyas HaMeisim and we would never return to the level of Adam. Therefore HaShem did not recreate Adam after the sin with an expiration date, but left man as a potentially eternal being, who would have his life cut off by an external force the Malach HaMaves, but would remain inherently an eternal creation. Therefore there could be Techyas HaMeisim. But how would death happen? Through the office of a new creation the Malach HaMaves who would now be able to end a person’s life even as they are still alive. And as bad as that sounds it is actually good, since that means that we will be brought back to life.

There was a time when the effect of the sin was almost overcome. That was at Matan Torah. As the Pasuk says we were free from the Yetzer HaRa, Satan and Malach HaMaves. But then the Yetzer HaRa managed to once again reintroduce death to the world through the sin of the Eigel- the golden calf. And as we say in Tehilim in the Shir shel Yom of Tuesday, I said you were as Elokim…, but instead you will die as Adam[3]. And Chazal teach us that this is referring to the potential of Matan Torah and the fall of the sin afterwards.

Therefore Techiyas HaMeisim in the time of Moshiach will repair and rectify all this, and return us to a world of complete Taharah, and no death.

But even in this world HaShem gave us a way to create Tahara. The Pasuk says Who will create Tahor from Tameh, if not one. And the Midrash brings a number of examples[4]. Among the examples are Techiya HaMeisim and Parah Adumah. So we see that these two ideas are related. This what Chazal mean that the Parah- the mother cow will come and clean up after the mess of the calf- the Eigel HaZahav. This is the correction that can make the Tahara itself come from the Tumah.

And there actually is a death which is positive. We learn in this week’s Parsha of the death of Miriam and Aharon. Both of them we are taught die with what is called Misas Neshika – “death by a kiss”. This is referring to when HaShem brings someone’s life to an end, rather than the Malach HaMaves. It is when HaShem, so to speak, reveals himself to the person and the Neshama is lifted out of the body back to the source from which it comes. But that is actually just the beginning of the process. Really all death is meant to be that, and then the body will be recreated in a higher way, that it will be like Adam before the sin, ready to live forever[5].

In fact, the Leshem writes that the Tzadikim who will be alive at the time of Techiyas HaMeisim will die in this way in order to allow their bodies toalso be recreated in this higher level, like Adam.

These are some ideas in how to understand and view death that leads to eternal life in Chazal.


[1] בבא בתרא דף טז/א –  במתניתא תנא יורד ומתעה ועולה ומרגיז נוטל רשות ונוטל נשמה

[2]  רש”י על בראשית פרק ג פסוק יד -כי עשית זאת – מכאן שאין מהפכים בזכותו של מסית שאילו שאלו למה עשית זאת. היה לו להשיב דברי הרב ודברי התלמיד דברי מי שומעין (סנהדרין כט):

[3] תהילים פרק פב – ו) אַנִי אָמַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם וּבְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כֻּלְּכֶם:  (ז) אָכֵן כְּאָדָם תְּמוּתוּן וּכְאַחַד הַשָֹּרִים תִּפֹּלוּ:

[4]  רבנו בחיי על במדבר פרק יט פסוק ב –  ועוד דרשו (תנחומא חוקת ז) ארבעה דברים יצר הרע משיב עליהם וכתיב בהם חוקה, אשת אח, כלאים, שעיר המשתלח, פרה אדומה. אשת אח דכתיב (ויקרא יח, טז) ערות אשת אחיך לא תגלה, וכתיב בה (שם כ, כב) ושמרתם את כל חוקותי, ואם מת בלא בנים ולא נתן לה גט יבמה יבוא עליה (דברים כה, ה). כלאים, שנאמר (דברים כב, יא) לא תלבש שעטנז, וסדין בציצית של תכלת שהוא של צמר מותר. שעיר המשתלח, דכתיב (ויקרא טז, כו) והמשלח את השעיר לעזאזל יכבס בגדיו, הוא עצמו הולך למיתה ומכפר לאחרים, וכתיב (שם, לד) והיתה זאת לכם לחוקת עולם. פרה אדומה, דתנן כל העוסקים בפרה מתחילה ועד סוף מטמאים בגדים, והיא עצמה מטהרת הטמאים. זה שאמר הכתוב (איוב יד, ד) מי יתן טהור מטמא לא אחד, כגון אברהם מתרח, חזקיהו מאחז, מרדכי משמעי, ישראל מאומות העולם, העולם הבא מן העולם הזה, מי עשה כן מי צוה כן מי גזר כן, לא יחידו של עולם. תמן תנינן בהרת כגריס באדם טמא, והוא כחצי פול, ואם פרחה בכולו טהור, עד כאן:

[5] כלי יקר על במדבר פרק יט פסוק ב – וענין עמוק זה והמשל ושוברו הראה ה’ במעשה העגל, כי הוא גרם טומאת המת לפי שבמ”ת נעשו ישראל חירות על הלוחות חירות ממלאך המות (שמו”ר מא ז) ואין הפירוש שהיתה הכוונה לבטל המות לגמרי, אלא ענין חירות זה הוא דווקא ממה”מ, שלא ימותו כ”א בנשיקה ע”פ ה’ ואז לא היו המתים טמאים כי כל עיקר הטומאה של המתים באה ממיתה שהיא ע”י מה”מ הבא מסטרא דמסאבא אבל המתים בנשיקה אין בהם שום צד טומאה שהרי ביום שמת רבינו הקדוש אמרו שבו ביום בטלה הכהונה (כתובות קג ע”ב ועיי”ש בתוספות) כי לא היה שם טומאה על כן התירו לכהנים להתעסק בו, נמצא שבקבלת התורה נעשו בני חורין ממה”מ ובטלה הטומאה וע”י העגל שעשו חזרו לקלקולם והשליטו עליהם המה”מ ואם כן העגל גרם טומאת המת ע”כ תבא האם ותקנח צואת בנה להסיר הטומאה ע”י אפר הפרה וזה פירוש:


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