An Anecdotal Rabbinic Story Highlighting a Presumptuous Confidence of the Continuance of Our Lives

At the feast which followed the circumcision the father served valuable old wine and said: “If I will live I will serve the same kind of wine at the wedding of my son,” and Rabbi Simeon replied : “Even as the child was today inducted into the covenant of Abraham he will grow to go to the canopy (the Chuppah, or wedding canopy) and we will both drink again.”

On his way home Rabbi Simeon met the angel of death who addressed him in the following words: “Just because you are a just man are you not afraid to go alone at night?” When Rabbi Simeon asked the angel where he was going, the angel replied that he was going to take the soul of the child that had been circumcised that day. Rabbi Simeon scolded the angel of death for wishing to prove him a liar because he had promised to drink at the boy’s wedding and with these words he annuled the decree of death against the child.

The Jewish Spiritual Heroes – Volume I; The Creators of the Mishna

In the book of James, James warns Jewish believers of making plans without God in mind, which goes against Proverbs 27:1

1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Proverbs 27:1 KJV

We read in James 4:13-16

13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

James 4:13-16 KJV

In verse 13, their intentions are fully developed, down to the detail. They speak a language reflecting assurance and self-confidence. These assumptions picture the future as entirely under their very own control. We are here cautioned against a presumptuous confidence of the continuance of our lives, and against forming projects and plans without God’s Providence in mind. But instead, if the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this, or that.




3 responses to “An Anecdotal Rabbinic Story Highlighting a Presumptuous Confidence of the Continuance of Our Lives”

  1. Charles Jeff Roark Avatar
    Charles Jeff Roark

    Perhaps a rabbi may overturn the Angel of Death when their confidence IS faith
    Perhaps e see an example of “if you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done unto you.
    Your observations about having confidence in ourselves is taken and appreciated. I humbly suggest God has demonstrated pleasure with faith and boldness inside of faith.
    A man telling an Angel of death to correct his ways , knowing “You have made [man] a little lower than the angels”, certainly the fact that an Angel’s actions may be turned seems to reveal the leverage of righteousness, and we know it was Abraham’s faith that granted him righteousness. Since we know the Angel spoke clearly of the rabbi’s righteousness, e may know he had faith. No?
    “Just thoughts”.

  2. Chris Baldelomar Avatar
    Chris Baldelomar

    That is an excellent thought, and one that I did consider to be within the realm of possibility. Because I categorized this Rabbinic story as a fable, this story could actually have several applications in teaching, one of which you shared in your comments above. From my recent studies in James, and where my mind was at in the moment, I thought it was a humorous way to illustrate how man can have complete confidence in planning out their days. My commentary was really based on that passage in James, and not so much on passing a judgement on Rabbi Simeon. But you are absolutely right, Rabbi Simeon could have possessed a faith that moved mountains. We read even in the Bible the Prophet Elisha raising back to life the Shunammite’s Son, which means Elisha did more than annul the Angel of Death’s plan, he reverted it!

  3. Charles Jeff Roark Avatar
    Charles Jeff Roark

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” If there weren’t dimensionality to truth, we’d feel anxiety despite ourselves. Because truth is nuanced and multidimensional we have a sense of the merit of awe and respect for the Creator of reality as more conspicuously real than even our capacity for perception of His creation. That your illustration is one of many valid illustrations for applying our minds to understanding truth, there’s some comfort for the person willing to understand our control of our lives is, in reality, an illusion, unless the Creator has assured our hearts that we are in line with His plans, that we’re truly “abiding.”
    Enoch walked with God, and he exited deathless. Rabbinical tradition has it that he was righteous, but he was taken early because he felt “the sinful inclination” and God wishes to spare him from being among those taken in the Flood. When we walk with God, there’s an attuned sensibility we may enter where whether we “are” or “are not” is irrelevant, because we walk with the source of life. Thanks for your attuned sensibility to stir thoughts!

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