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A Precise Life

A Precise Life


And Moses went and spoke the following words to all of Israel. And he said to them: “I am one hundred and twenty years old today . . .”

Deuteronomy 31:1–2

Today my days and years were fulfilled; on this day I was born, and on this day I shall die . . . This is to teach us that G‑d fulfills the years of the righteous to the day and to the month, as it is written (Exodus 23:26): “I shall fulfill the number of your days.”

Rashi, ibid.; Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 11a

A year is more than a quantity of time: it is a cycle, a sequence of transitions that runs its course only to repeat itself again and again. On the physical level, a year marks the completion of the solar cycle and the repeat of the sequence of seasons and the lifecycles they engender. On the spiritual plane, each year brings a repeat of the various spiritual influences unleashed by the festivals (freedom on Passover, joy on Sukkot, etc.) from their fixed position on the Jewish calendar.

Thus, the Hebrew word for “year,” shanah, means both “change” and “repetition.” For the year is an embodiment of the entire range of transformations that constitute the human experience. Each year of our lives only repeats this cycle, though on the higher level to which a year’s worth of maturity and achievement have elevated us. In other words, one can say that we all live for one year, and then relive our lives for as many times as we are enabled, each time on a more elevated level, like a spiral which repeats the same path with each revolution, but on a higher plane.

Therein lies the significance of a life that is “fulfilled” in the sense that it consists of complete calendar years. Moses was born on the seventh of Adar and passed away on the same date, as was the case with a number of other tzaddikim (perfectly righteous individuals).

The world we inhabit has both a spiritual and a physical dimension. While these are but the two faces of a single reality, not always is the one a precise mirror of the other. Thus there were many tzaddikim whose lives were “fulfilled” in the spiritual sense—in that the potential in each of their days and moments was optimally realized—yet this “fullness” did not find expression in the calendar dates of their birth and passing. Physically, their final year on earth was “incomplete.” But then there were those great men and women whose physical life was a crystalline vessel of its spiritual content, reflected in the fact that “G‑d fulfills their years to the day and to the month.”

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
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Yael Costa Rica August 29, 2013

I really liked the explanation from the anonymous person from Morristown, NJ. It helped me understand the concept Rabbi Tauber so kindly exposed.
Thank you. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 21, 2011

all the days of our lives count, and I would say that to live one day, in a just and righteous way, is for the tzaddik as every day, so then, all days, are equal in terms of time of death. One day equals an eternity of days, being deeply about ONE, and a wholeness that is difficult to explicate in words.

but that is what I would say, and I am not a Rabbi.

I do see an intense One ness wherever I look in the universe. We do experience miracles of such synchronous events, but not everyone follows this pattern, and whatever and whenever the time of death, G_d already has this knowledge, because I am seeing a Master Storyteller at work, who deeply knows us all, because we all count, and our stories are also known and also, it's hard to say this, but they are scripted by a Divine Hand, because this is deeply, a journey of soul. G_d does not play dice with the universe. Reply

Catherine Brookville, NY August 2, 2010

dad's death My dad died on his birthday. He was a wonderful man with a great heart. He never did anything in this world that was regrettful or hurtful. A month before he died, I dreamed there was a big party going on our family's house in brooklyn. Two young teens came to the door of our apartment very happy and excited for this party. At the dinning room table was an aunt whom I haven't seen in twenty years. After my dad died, I was looking at old photos and saw the two teens, they were my dad's brothers who died prior to him. The aunt at our table, it turned out has died two weeks before my father. The party obviously was to be his birthday in heaven. True story!! It gives me great happiness to remember that dream. Reply

Anonymous morristown, NJ September 6, 2009

when learning about the subject of G-d filling the years and days of tzaddikim i remember my teacher saying (if im not mistaken, based on the teachings of the Rebbe) that whether the tzaddik passes away on the same day as he was born or not, his years and days are still complete. in the case where the birthday and the day of passing are the same day - so we see the completion in a revealed way. however when the day of the passing is different than the day of the birthday, it means that they already filled their lives to 100% on their previous birthday and all the days from the last birthday to the day he passed away are extra days that enhanced the tzaddiks life and brought it to even a higher completion. i hope that was clear and helpful Reply

Allen Licht Miami, FL October 3, 2008

To the anonymous from Miami Being dual beings, spiritual and physical, we belong to both worlds. We tend to accentuate or celebrate our physical birth. We hardly pay any attention to the spiritual. The life is complete when both physical and spiritual missions are accomplished. For some it coincides, for others it does not. For some, physical and spiritual lives begin at birth, for others physical manifestation takes priority, for others spiritual. Yet, for some, both physical and spiritual may begin at CONCEPTION. I do not pretend to know anything, do your own calculations ...... Reply

Blumah Wineberg January 1, 2005

BH If I may take the liberty to offer some insight to the question about the tzadik whose life is complete yet the day of passing is not the same as the day of birth. How can we understand this?
As in many cases in Torah, not everything can be understood at face value. Indeed our sages say that for tzadikim, Hashem counts their days so that their life is complete, thus many times we find that ones day of passing is on the day of birth. However, there is more than one manner of completion. For example, my sister passed away exactly to the day 41 years since she and her husband, for many more years, went out on shlichut. For her the completion of her life coincided with the completion of her shlichut on this physical plane.
It is most difficult for us to know G-d's plan, especially in the case of the Rebbe, therefore it would be presumptous to try and explain what happened. Nevertheless, we know with a certainty that Gimel Tamuz had great significance in the literature of the Rebbe. Reply

Yanki Tauber September 8, 2004

Do you want me to answer your question whether or not I know the answer, or do you want me to anwer only if I know it?
Untemptedly yours, Reply

Anonymous Miami, Florida September 8, 2004

Perfection Dear Rabbi,
So then, why the Rebbe, the epithome of perfection in our generation, was born and passed away a different day?
I have the feeling you will be tempted not to answer to my questions, but please make an effort. Reply

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