The final verse of the last song of the Passover Haggadah – Chad Gadya – reports: “the Holy One comes and slaughters the Angel of Death.”

God’s destruction of death is limited neither to messianic visions nor to a future era. Death is defeated not by immortal souls, nor in the Hereafter. We defeat death in this world by embracing lives which partake of the Eternal.

By devoting our lives to God through the wisdom of our accumulated tradition, we join a vital entity which death cannot destroy. We share life’s journey not only with our contemporaries. When we choose God and Torah, our spiritual experience extends well beyond our brief life span. Our distant forebears become a compelling presence in our lives. We turn to them for insight. We listen to their counsel. We conduct ourselves based upon their precedents and examples. We strive to live in such a manner so as similarly to bequeath a living presence to our distant successors. We seek not eternal life, but lives devoted to that which is Eternal. Our personal mortality, our eventual and inevitable death is no obstacle to success in this venture. As willing agents of God, we sanctify life… and death is rendered ineffectual.

“The Holy One comes and slaughters the Angel of Death.”

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Northern Jersey and is the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)


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