July 15th, 2024

Inspired Living

The 'living dead' are all around us

Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz

By Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz

Published Sept. 14,2018

The 'living dead' are all around us

How to perform resurrection

“The days approach that you [Moses] must die.”
  —   Deut. 31:14

The Torah definition of life and death goes far beyond having a regular pulse and respiration.

In explaining the above verse, the Midrash (Tanchuma, Vayeilech, par. 4) tells us that a rasha — an evil person — is considered as dead, even though he seems to be healthy and alive. Why?

Because his physical body may be alive and well, but in spirit he is dead and buried.

Man is endowed by the Divine with abilities of perception and understanding. We can see and recognize the beauty and complexity of the universe and thereby can come to realize the greatness of the Designer and Builder of all creation. This realization triggers an automatic outpouring of gratitude and praise to Him for these delightful wonders. As we look at the world around us, we are constantly bombarded by "everyday miracles" and the astonishingly harmonious interaction of all the forces of nature. Seeds grow into plants. Babies are born. Our hearts beat unceasingly every minute of the day. Our eyes see, our ears hear.

Anyone who does not respond to these stimuli by praising the Creator is considered to be in a spiritually comatose state similar to death. Because the evil person does not appreciate the blessings of life bestowed upon him, not only does he not live life to the fullest, he does not live at all. If we, on the other hand, understand that the Divine renews creation everyday and we appreciate each new sunrise and every heartbeat as another gift from the Almighty, we will truly experience life and its pleasures.

Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel, known by the by the Yiddish appellation "The Alter of Slabodka" (1849-1927), suggested that we observe an infant as it begins its life in this world. At first he or she stares blankly into space. By the third month he or she visually follows an object and even begins to reach out to grab it. Soon this baby will make sounds and sit upright, eventually will walk, talk, and have a complete repertoire of fully developed motor and mental skills.

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At each stage of the infant's development, the parents will be overjoyed and awed by the new advances their baby has made. Long-distance phone calls will be put through to the grandparents to inform them of their grandchild's latest tricks. Each nuance of the baby's development is appreciated, and his or her parents thank G od for the wonderful miracles He is performing every day.

All of these developmental stages, the Alter explained, occur to each of us every day. When we are asleep, our metabolisms are slowed and our conscious functions are completely incapacitated. Nevertheless, each day the Divine opens our eyes and returns our skills and talents to us. The Alter of Slabodka emphasized that we must appreciate our abilities as if they were suddenly bestowed upon us this very day and we must rejoice each morning just as a mother celebrates each step of her child's maturation.

The more we open our eyes and minds to appreciate the blessings of creation that the Almighty constantly bestows upon us, and the abilities that are rejuvenated in our bodies every day, the more we can be considered vibrant and alive. .


Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz was the dean of the Rabbinical Seminary of America, in Queens, New York for more than 50 years. The institution has branches and affiliates all across North America and Israel. This article was prepared by two of the sage's disciples, Rabbi Aryeh Striks and Rabbi Shimon Zehnwirth, and excerpted from "Pinnacle of Creation: Torah insights into human nature".