Doreish Tov on Medrash Rabbah
Parashas Vayeilech 5769
9:1 Hashem informs Moshe that his days are numbered. The Medrash cites an incident where Rabbi Shimon ben Tachlafta attended a Bris Milah and the father of the infant served him wine that was seven years old. The father then declared that he would be able to serve this wine at his son’s wedding in the future. Rabbi Shimon ben Tachlafta left the festivities in middle of the night and he encountered the Angel of Death. The Angel of Death appeared troubled, and when Rabbi Shimon ben Tachlafta questioned him regarding his appearance, the Angel of Death responded that he appeared thus because of people’s speech. The Angel of Death informed Rabbi Shimon ben Tachlafta that people foretell what they will do in the future when they do not even know when they will die. The father of the infant had predicted that he would serve the same wine by his son’s wedding and he was actually destined to die within thirty days time. Rabbi Shimon ben Tachlafta requested that The Angel of Death inform him when his time to die would come, and the Angel of Death responded that he did not have power over the righteous. At times HaShem desires good deeds and therefore He lengthens the days of the righteous. The Sages said that it is difficult for HaShem to decree death upon the righteous. Proof of this is from Moshe where HaShem did not declare, “behold you will die.” Rather, HaShem told Moshe, “behold, your days are drawing near to die.”
Let us understand this Medrash. Is it possible to say that HaShem cannot be up front with the righteous and inform them directly when they will die? Why is it important that HaShem be indirect with the righteous regarding their death? The answer to this question is that the Gemara (Taanis 5b) states that Yaakov Avinu did not die. Furthermore, the Gemara (Brachos 18a) states that the righteous, even in their deaths are referred to as being alive. In essence, death is only a reality for those who were never really living in this world. The wicked, even when they are alive, are deemed to be dead (Ibid). Thus, were HaShem to inform a righteous person that he will soon die, it would seem that HaShem is labeling the righteous person as a wicked person, and this is not true. To avoid what may even appear to be a falsehood, HaShem informs the righteous indirectly that their time has come. Their days may have come to an end on this earth, but they themselves never die, as the righteous live forever.