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On Resurrection | Menasseh Ben Israel

The skull with the crossed bones on the Matzevah is a Sephardic symbol of the Resurrection of the dead, the 13th Maimonidean principle of faith. This stone belongs to the Jewish community of Hamburg. Photo credit: Jewish Community of Hamburg, thanks to Rabbi Levi Prujanski.
The skull with the crossed bones on the Matzevah is a Sephardic symbol of the Resurrection of the dead, the 13th Maimonidean principle of faith. This stone belongs to the Jewish community of Hamburg. Photo credit: Jewish Community of Hamburg, thanks to Rabbi Levi Prujanski.

Translator’s Introduction

Death swallowed up forever | בלע המות לנצח
(Isaiah 25:8)

The modern definition of death used by medical practitioners to declare a person dead is a very useful convention for official registers and insurance companies, but its pragmatic consideration shifts the attention away from what makes a definition true. Death as an instrumental description uses the figure of speech called a metalepsis because it does not use its words to define itself but rather borrows mechanical or inert figures from physics, and impersonal rhetoric disguised as objective for its general definition. According to dictionary.com: Death is the irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. We can derive the following contradiction and errors if we apply some old-school rhetoric [1]:

  1. Death” is defined as the deprivation of doing, or the negation of any transitive or intransitive action, being dead is non-doing, or the same as “being nothing” because non-doing denotes a non-being. Since a non-being has no position, nothing positive can be stated of a non-being because there must be an identification between the subject, death, and the intransitive predicate, is, for the subject to exert a positive influence (of position over itself).[2] Death, non-existent or not being, cannot positively influence something that exists and is real.[3]  
  1. is” conveys a pseudo-phenomenological existence to death. The verb must point to an intransitive position to predicate a positive state of being. A non-being does not have an entity or position. Therefore, death is a false entity and not real in terms of being. This definition is already a category mistake.
  2. the irreversible is the denial of the causality of being, which is deemed as necessary (or constant), and eternal. This argument is based on the classic axiom, “something cannot be made out of nothing,” however this does not preclude that a being that already was, or had been done, be prevented from being anew, or being done anew. [4] Therefore, the irreversibility of being cannot be determined. This is the logical principle of resurrection that we will see in this book by Menasseh Ben Israel.
  3. cessation” is simply the temporary inactivity of the agent. Only if something is deprived of action it would be so to say, dead; and the being would not be; however, if a being is temporarily deprived of action,[5] or if its potential was prevented by some circumstances, it would not be dead.
  4. of all” is a reductive generalization that fails to distinguish intermediate phases of existence, such as a nonzero chance to be alive; distinct entities, and nonlinear phenomena. 
  5. biological functions or actions are not subsistent entities, nor can they sustain or do a new being, or undo it.[6] Actions, or biological functions, are done, or not, by the natural agent. 
  6. that sustain a living organism” in line with the above, this is another illogical metalepsis.[7] Inversely, the living organism sustains the biological functions, whose effects are produced according to its essence (the soul) and entity. The sentence structure confuses the causality of the efficient or agent, the subject, and the predicate. 

The agent is the living organism, not its functions, nor death because death has no position in sustaining a being and it cannot influence in life any causality with a material appearance. The above does not mean that the phenomenon that we call death does not exist, but rather its definition is incorrect. Death, logically, is an invention with a proper definition comprising a category, and a differential. Its category is for everything which dies or becomes inactive, and its differential is to contrast it with that which is alive. In this sense death is a rhetorical figure of antithesis whose invention is made up of its opposite.[8]

This way of defining death is by opposites, but death is an opposite of deprivation. The opposites of deprivation are those in which deprivation does not mean the thing but only the absence of its opposite.[9] They are distinct from those opposites or contraries that can be brought together to a certain degree, such as cold and heat in lukewarm. However, between the privative opposites there can be no relationship. Between life and death there are not two opposite sides or extremes but only one, which is life.[10] Hence, living is an intransitive verb without transition from life to death.

But since its definition does not comprise a possible (finite) end, i.e. the end of death, its invention has an improper definition and can only be understood with a description, and not with a definition, unless there is an end of death that is the resurrection of the dead. 

In conclusion, for death to be correctly defined in logical and rational terms, its definition must comprise the resurrection, otherwise, death does not have a proper definition because it is not definitive, but rather a general description, and as such it is a dead metaphor.

Notes:

  1. Verbi gratia: Aristotle’s Ars Rhetorica; Cicero’s De Inventione, De Partitionibus Oratoria, De Oratore; Rhetorica ad Herennium; Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria; Tractate of Logic and Rhetoric & Tractate of the Logic of Aristotle by Rabbi Moses Raphael d’Aguilar that I transcribed. 
  2. Isaac Orobio, Philosophical Case of Divine and Natural Truth, Chapter 4, XIII, 2, (Shehakol, 2020).
  3. Ibid. Ch. 3, Refutation, 68.
  4. Ibid. Ch. 2, I, 1-2.
  5. Ibid. Ch. 3, Refutación, 50.
  6. Ibid. Ch. 4, Proposition 10.
  7. Rabbi Moses Raphael d’Aguilar, Tractate of Logic and Rhetoric, Book 4, Chapter 11.
  8. Ibid. Book 4, Chapter 8.
  9. Ibid. Book 2, Chapter 10.

10. Isaac Orobio, Philosophical Case of Divine and Natural Truth, Chapter 2, I, 1-3; Between the finite and the infinite there is no proportion, Aristotle, Physics VIII, 10, 266a, 24b6.

About the Author
Walter Hilliger is a French Caribbean writer, translator, and publisher of manuscript writings and facsimiles of Sephardic authors of the Grand Siècle, notably Isaac Orobio (1617 - 1787), R. David Nieto (1654 - 1728), Menasseh Ben Israel (1604-1657), R. Moïse Raphaël d'Aguilar (1615 - 1679) and others. He transcribed, restored, and digitized millions of words generating thousands of translated pages into current Spanish and English. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PW1BDTS
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