web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



I Won’t Stop For Death; It Will Stop For Me

Share Button

When I lost my grandmother two years ago, I was haunted by the image of her body. There is little that can shock a person more than seeing a dead body, especially knowing that someday, you yourself will be a lifeless lump of flesh. It becomes shockingly clear that you have a one hundred percent chance of mortality. As much as I believe the world revolves around me, one day, after a hundred and twenty years with some luck, the sun will rise and I will not be there.

I try not to dwell on that too much, as it can become a bit crippling. Instead I try to affirm life wherever I go. I walk through the beauty of the world, enjoy its splendors and try to take joy in as much as possible. I make sure to smile as much as possible and I enjoy the blessings of friendship and family. But although one of my favorite things to do is go to museums, I simply will not attend the Bodies exhibit.

For those unaware, the Bodies exhibit is a series of actual preserved bodies, put on display. The exhibit is arranged to show the basic body functions. This is achieved by dissection to carefully show what is beneath the skin. Although it is said the cadavers were donated to science, it has been theorized that some were obtained by illegal means.

So, why is it so popular? For many, it’s a stark reminder to make every moment count. Since we are all headed to death, let’s take a moment to see it so we can remember our time is shockingly limited. For others, it’s a fascinating look into the wonders of the human body. For a lot of people, it’s just something cool to do. To paraphrase Natalie Merchant, see death in its eyes to know you’re alive.

Yet, for me, it’s an affirmation of death in the most brutal fashion. It’s treating a human being like an object, to be admired and critiqued. What Bereishit terms “the image of God” has become a piece of meat in the marketplace. It frightens me that the reverence and respect for the dead, a fairly universal concept to all ancient cultures, is being ignored.

Some argue that it says a lot about society where seeing dead bodies counts as entertainment. In medieval times, public executions were the norm and the bodies were left to rot. I understand that is a bit of hyperbole. A wise friend of mine who visited it said it was more scientific and less gory. She pointed out that knowing about the human body can save lives and that it’s an important part of education.

Of course, I have no objections to medical students who study cadavers to save lives. There is no higher value than saving a life. Still, it disturbs me on a Jewish level for bodies to be used for mere entertainment.

The importance of death customs has been ingrained in me since birth. When I served as a shomeret for my grandmother, I was instructed not to eat, drink or perform a mitzvah in the same room. In the shock of death, it seemed rather inane to be told it would be considered mocking the dead. My grandmother was gone; she couldn’t do those things because she didn’t exist anymore, a fact that still makes me tear up.

It was only after the great misery settled into a manageable scar on my soul that I was able to comprehend the wisdom of the respect for those who are no longer with us, the ipso facto need for respect for those who are and the affirmation of life that is my faith.

My incredible father is a Kohen and I grew up learning through osmosis about his birth duty to a culture of life. Because my father is entrusted with the service of purity, he cannot become impure through death. He cannot walk into graveyards and he is counseled to avoid the medical profession.

Unlike the ancient Egyptian priests, whose culture sanctified death; those who served in the Beit HaMikdash were expected to keep away from it. That is not to say we are told to fear death, but we are to concentrate on living today, on making our lives as rich and meaningful as possible. In the Torah, we are described as choosing life.

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “I Won’t Stop For Death; It Will Stop For Me”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israeli soldiers closed off the area near where a terror attack occurred  near Hevron on Passover eve, in search of the terrorists.
Netanyahu: PA Incitement Caused Pre-Passover Terror Attack
Latest Sections Stories
Tali Hill, a beneficiary of the Max Factor Family Foundation.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Yeshiva Day School of Las Vegas’s deans, Rabbi Moshe Katz and Rabbi Zev Goldman, present award to Educator of the Year, Rabbi Michoel Paris.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

Your husband seems to have experienced what we have described as the Ambivalent Attachment.

The goal of the crusade is to demonize and hurt Israel.

The JUMP program at Hebrew Academy was generously sponsored by Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz.

More Articles from Elke Weiss
Twenties-071213

At the American Jewish Historical Society, there was an excellent program about Jewish women in the Civil War. The audience learned about such colorful women as Phoebe Yates Pember who served as a nurse, with 15,000 patients coming under her direct care during the war and Clara Solomon, a teenager who chronicled the Civil War.

The importance of death customs has been ingrained in me since birth. When I served as a shomeret for my grandmother, I was instructed not to eat, drink or perform a mitzvah in the same room. In the shock of death, it seemed rather inane to be told it would be considered mocking the dead. My grandmother was gone; she couldn’t do those things because she didn’t exist anymore, a fact that still makes me tear up.

At the end of 2012, I was in Israel and looking out at the Jerusalem night sky. I was filled to the brim with inspiration and decided to challenge myself to become a more educated young woman. Simply put, I was going to read as many books in a year as possible. I’m not sure if that would actually have made a difference in my level of education but it seemed like a fun goal at the time.

Many Jewish people, including myself, avoid Holocaust movies because it is far too painful to watch the dehumanization of those we love. Still, facing what is painful is an important part of life. “Lion of Judah” is not an easy film to watch, but for the next generation it will be a valuable resource for educating children in a world without survivors. More importantly, it is centered on the incredible, Leo Zisman, the Lion of Judah.

Whenever I got praised for an achievement, I feel like I should say that half the praise goes to my parents. Although they can get on my nerves, I am really blessed with a mother and father who have molded and shaped me (by any means necessary) to become a successful human being.

Growing up, I remember my father’s Rosh Hashana ritual. He read the story of Rabi Amnon of Mainz, who had his tongue, hands and legs cut off for refusing to convert to Christianity – for choosing to remain a Jews. I would run away from the table sobbing in terror. Even at the tender age of six, I knew that being Jewish made oneself a member of an endangered species.

Purim is my favorite holiday, and I love to share the joy. I have spent previous years wandering around my neighborhood in costume. This year, I fully intend to celebrate with full cheer, and I want everyone to know why I plan to spend the day in costume, singing Shoshanat Yaakov at the top of my lungs.

We are forgetting the lessons of the churban Beit HaMikdash, how we were not finished off by Rome, but destroyed ourselves through mindless hatred and zealotry. We bled each other dry through violence and bigotry until we were weak enough for Rome to come in and step all over our broken bodies. Rome did not defeat us – we defeated ourselves.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/i-wont-stop-for-death-it-will-stop-for-me/2013/06/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: