Life and Death


3 comments posted
I just studied that passage

I just studied that passage of Bava Metzia this spring, but didn't realize the connection between "nitzchuni" and "netzach" -- how obvious it seems now that you point it out!

This is powerful stuff. I really like what you're saying about the meaning of forever.

Posted by Rachel on May 11, 2006 9:39 AM
That must be a pretty famous

That must be a pretty famous passage; this is at least the fourth time I've heard it recounted. But as Rachel says, your spin is unique. I love arguments from etymology!

"The biology of it is that the dead tree is tending to the living ones." Well put.

A very crotchedy biologist I know of, who is always challenging the management of the Allegheny National Forest, utterly rejects the notion that a fallen tree (or standing snag) is dead in any sense. It has simply become host to a different and more diverse kind of life.

Of course, biology cannot provide any definitive definition for the thing it studies, "life." That's where priests, rabbis and poets come in. Unfortunately, the influence of reductionism has spread from science to religion to the point where many good people are consumed with "pro-life" passions to the virtual exclusion of any concern for the biosphere. Even churches and synagogues that claim to cherish humanity and non-human creation equally still give all their time and money to purely humanitatian concerns...

Posted by Dave on May 11, 2006 11:35 AM
Dave, yes, it is a famous

Dave, yes, it is a famous passage, most known for taking the line from Deuteronomy 30, "lo ba'shamayim hi" "It is not in heaven" out of context to use it for a new purpose. In Deut. 30 the purpose to explain to folk that living a life according to Torah is doable, you don't have to go to the heavens or traverse the ocean to live it. In the Talmud, it's used to argue that the authority for creating our legal system lies with human beings and not with God. Very evocative stuff and it's all told as a tale of disagreeing rabbis. Do you remember any of the other places you saw it sited?

I appreciate your suggestion that we need to take our appreciation for the biosphere and translate it into taking actions that show our concern.

Rachel—I only noticed the netach/nitzchuni connection after I had put it in to connect to the story about how I feel about my kids. It felt like a real bonus and I too felt, "I can't believe I didn't notice that before."

Posted by Shai Gluskin on May 11, 2006 11:28 PM