The Mal’ach HaMavet and The Tree of Life (part 2)

The Mal’ach HaMavet, who is The Angel of Death, and the Tree of Life were both created on the same day, several billion years ago.

In the beginning old age didn’t exist.

When hunting animals slowed down or were wounded they could not eat and starved to death. When prey animals slowed down or were disabled they were eaten.

With the creation of humans old age appeared. Humans fed and protected the infirm and the elderly. The human population multiplied greatly and spread throughout the world. Larger human populations increased the deadliness of disease.

Then humans (Shamans, Medicine Women etc.) discovered the power of prayer and ritual to heal, as it says, “At that time mankind began to invoke the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26)

The angel Raphael (God heals) became the opponent of the Malach HaMavet-the Angel of Death. In recent generations humans became major allies of Raphael through modern medicine. The 95% decline in infant mortality resulted in a 50% increase in AVERAGE life span. Drugs and surgery multiplied the percentage of people reaching old age.

Modern medicine seemed to provide miracles that Raphael couldn’t. Humans began to think they could conquer the Angel of Death. Then convalescent homes spread throughout the land and people began to realize that “There is a time to be born and a time to die. (Ecclesiastes 3:2)

Now they know why both Raphael and the Malach HaMavet are both Angels of God. After all, as Jonathan Swift once said, “Everyone wants to live forever, but no one wants to be old.”

A Hindu tale from the Mahabharata describes the birth of the goddess of death: Mrityu.

In the beginning, Brahma created the world and all the creatures in it. However, the living beings were immortal. Soon, the world was overcrowded with beings that could multiply, but never die. Brahma searched for solutions everywhere but could not find one. Frustrated, his anger lit the skies on fire and threatened the destruction of all the worlds.

Shiva, noticing the imminent end of the whole Universe, went to Brahma to plead for living beings, “You are the Creator and benefactor of all the worlds. Why destroy them?”

Brahma explained, the Earth is overburdened and is imploring me to ease her suffering by destroying some of the weight. I could not find a suitable way, and let anger get the best of me.” Shiva replied “I ask you to realize your role as the Creator not as the destroyer.”

So Brahma composed himself and sat down to ponder how to solve the problem of life and death. As he was thinking, he inadvertently scowled and from his scowl, came a female deity who was dressed in red from head-to-toe.

She looked at the two gods expectantly, uncertain of why she had been born. Brahma looked at her and named her Mrityu (death). Her smile instantly faded, as she understood her role. Brahma continued, “I want you to slay all living creatures.”

Mrityu wept, mourning: “I cannot bear the thought of causing pain and violence. I cannot fathom taking the lives of living beings. Those whose loved ones I kill may curse me or harm me.”

She could not bear it and fled. Brahma, realizing that Mrityu was adamant about non-violence came to her and said “Why did you flee?” She replied, “To atone for the sins that you ask me to commit. I see men and animals in health and do not see why I must be the one to cause death.”

Brahma explained the circle of life to her, “You will be free of guilt and sin. There are feelings of covetousness, wrath, malice, jealousy, hatred, folly and selfishness that afflict the body of these creatures. So the people you kill will have desire and anger in their hearts; that will ensure their reincarnation and rebirth.”

And among the Jews it is said that when the one and only Divine creator called all the angels together and asked for a volunteer to serve as the Malach HaMavet-the Angel of Death: No one volunteered.

The Holy One asked the angels why no one wanted the job. After a few moments of silence one angel replied, “Whoever serves as the Angel of Death will get blamed and cursed for taking away people’s loved ones. We want to help people not hurt them.”

The Holy One said, “Do not worry. Most people will pin the fault on everything else instead. They will blame the doctor, the person’s sins or lack of will, or old age. They will even blame themselves for lack of foresight; if only I, I should have etc.

But they will not see the Malach HaMavet at work doing what has to be done if new generations are to be born without overpopulating Planet Earth.

Another angel, Raphael’s older brother, spoke up saying, “I have three objections. The job is unjust, unfair and unnatural. Good people will die young, while bad people will live long. Young people will die much to soon. And people will not understand why their loved ones can’t live as long as oak trees.”

The Creator responded, “First, I will give the Torah to Israel and then most people who live a good self-disciplined life will live longer than most self-indulgent bad people, for Torah says: ”I offer you the choice of life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life and then you and your descendants will live; love, obey and embrace the Lord your God for that is life and length of days for you.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Faithful people will measure life spans qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

Second, there will come a time at the end of days when: No child will ever again die an infant, no elderly person will fail to live a full life, and every youth shall live a hundred years before dying. (Isaiah 65:20)

Third, people will learn that long life has its own serious problems. “The trees of the field are not humans.” (Deuteronomy 20:19) Trees don’t get Alzheimer’s.

Many illnesses can afflict the elderly but there is nothing ‘wrong’ with an elderly person who dies of old age; especially if he or she desires it.

Indeed, there will come a time when convalescent homes spread throughout the land and many people will pray for the Malach HaMavet to come. They will be quick to blame you for being late; finally realizing the Malach HaMavet is indeed an Angel of God.

Several angels then volunteered to be the Malach HaMavet. The Holy One chose Raphael’s older brother: Satan.

After all, “Better an easy death than a hard life.” A Yiddish Proverb

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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