For the week of June 19, 2010 / 7 Tammuz 5770
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 19:1 - 22:1
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 11:1-33
Death Is Not Our Friend
Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him. (Bemidbar / Numbers 19:13; ESV)
In this week's parsha (Torah portion), we read about the ritual cleansing that is necessary when coming into contact with the dead, as well as the deaths of Moses' sister Miriam and his brother Aaron. How people have related to death throughout history has varied. Today there is growing interest and openness to euthanasia. Euthanasia is commonly thought of as mercy killing, whereby causing or aiding in the death of a suffering person is viewed as a better option than allowing them to continue to suffer.
But is killing someone ever a better option than living? One of the things that this depends on is what death really is. To hear some of the arguments in favor of euthanasia one would think that death is a welcome friend to the sufferer, or that death is just one of many natural parts of life. For some who believe in an afterlife death is a doorway to a better place or the long awaited freedom from our bondage to our flesh. While these kinds of notions about death are not the only thing fueling the growing acceptance of euthanasia, it would be difficult for society to embrace such a thing if death itself was seen in a negative light.
But according to the Bible death is negative. Death is not natural. It is an aspect of God's curse upon the human race due to the rebellion of our first parents (See Bereshit / Genesis 2:15, 17; cf 3:17-19). We were created to live, not die. Death is not a solution, but a problem - our biggest problem. It is not our friend; it is an enemy - an enemy that God has purposed to destroy (See 1 Corinthians 15:26).
For those who have been made right with God due to trusting in the Messiah, death poses no threat. For even when it works its evil upon us, it will not have the final word. God's children are kept safe in his care after death and anticipate the receiving of incorruptible bodies at the resurrection.
However, while we have no reason to fear death, it continues to represent God's displeasure with humankind and will continue to be part of our plight until the Messiah returns. At that time, we will not be reconciled with death; it will be destroyed.
The word euthanasia is derived from the Greek, meaning "good death," but there is no such thing. Death is bad. Putting a positive spin on it distracts us from its purpose in human experience. To pretend that it is a welcome friend, when it is really our enemy, undermines the God-derived value of life.
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