The Talmud in Pesachim 54b lists the day of one’s death as the first of seven items that are hidden from humankind. As obvious a statement as this may seem, it is important to remember that, originally, humankind was not intended to die. Mortality was introduced only when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (which God warned them “for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die" - Genesis 2:17), thus introducing death.
Since that fateful day so many centuries ago, many have sought ways to predict the day of their own death. None have succeeded, although God did reveal to King David that he would die on a Shabbat. Many others have vainly sought the means to overcome death.
Mortality goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge of good and evil, since the fear of one’s own demise helps a person choose how to act. This idea is touched upon in the Talmud:
"Rabbi Eliezer would say: Repent one day before your death. Asked his disciples: Does a man know on which day he will die? Said he to them: So being the case, he should repent today, for perhaps tomorrow he will die; hence, all his days are passed in a state of repentance.” (Shabbat 153a).
Although sincere repentance can wipe one’s slate clean, a person can never really be certain that there may be additional time to amend his/her ways.
This Treat was last posted on November 30, 2011.
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