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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

The Possibility of “Not Dying”

[The opinion we saw last time that no one dies without sin] is in line with the following Tannaic opinion: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Even Moshe and Aharon died due to their sin, as the pasuk says: “Since you did not believe in Me …” (Bamidbar 20:12) – we infer: “had you believed in Me, your time would not have come to take leave of the world.”
Various RabbisElul 1 5777
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Gemara: [The opinion we saw last time that no one dies without sin] is in line with the following Tannaic opinion: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Even Moshe and Aharon died due to their sin, as the pasuk says: "Since you did not believe in Me …" (Bamidbar 20:12) – we infer: "had you believed in Me, your time would not have come to take leave of the world."

Ein Ayah: Even though it is clear that there is a connection between the spirit of the individual and the spirit of mankind as a whole, in regard to a life of morality as it is in other aspects of life, it is still unclear how far the power of free choice extends. The opinion that there is no such thing as death without sin posits that a person, no matter how righteous and wise he is, is not capable, after Adam’s sin, of rising up above the general lowliness of mankind. Man cannot escape sin and death because it is necessary for death to facilitate a renewal of mankind, and thereby bring it to the right direction.
Yet there is a different opinion, that choice is so free that an individual person can elevate himself out of the reach of all lowliness and lacking that is embedded in the standard human condition. A person can reach such a point that the lacking for which death was instituted, to remove people from the world and introduce new people who can progress, does not apply to him. If so, there is no need for him to die, as he carried out every choice to its fullest. Death has occurred to all only because perfection in moral decisions has not existed yet. But Moshe and Aharon had the potential, if not for their sin, to be beyond the need for death, as complete individuals do not need to wait for the time that the resurrection of the dead creates new existences in the world.
It is proper to view the changes between the different forms of life as a good way to complement that which was accomplished but not completed. The transition from one world to another, from the lowly state that we call life to "life after life," which is on a much loftier level, is fit to always accompany life. Remaining in one place with one personal standing, during what should be a never-ending process of elevation, can never be considered success.
Without sin, though, one can make a transition to another state of life in a way that is pleasant and desirable, without it engendering a lowering of state or darkening in regard to any of the elements of life, neither internally nor externally. To the contrary, the transition to a different type of life can be done with happiness, as it gives new freedom and exemption from previous obligations, because all the previous obligations were completed properly. We do not, spiritually, consider such an end to physical life to be death, but taking leave of the world (the word in Hebrew is patur, which means exemption). One becomes exempt from all the trials that he had to pass because he already succeeded in them.
To make the transition, one does not need sin. Rather, only to leave the world in a manner that we know as death, requires sin. That is why the gemara says that had Moshe and Aharon’s belief been complete, their time of taking leave of the world would not yet have come. The time would eventually have come but then it would have been in a manner that is called taking leave of the world, not death. It would not have taken away from the goodness of life. The fact that their departure had to be described as death was due to the sin of Moshe and Aharon. That sin made it fit for them to experience death because Hashem is especially strict on those who are close to Him (see Tehillim 99:8 and 50:3).
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