It is said that all people have to go the way of man and pass away when their time in this world is up. In fact, there are many euphemisms for it- like ‘the time to cross the bar’ and ‘His/her soul departed’. Yet some people never died… in fact they are maybe still alive today!
Pinchas ben Elazer ben Aharon HaKohein, great nephew of Moshe Rabeinu never left this world. It was he who killed Zimri and was featured in last weeks Parsha, Parshas Pinchas!
We first encountered Serach Bas Asher in Sefer Beraishis. When Yoseph (Joseph) was found to be alive and well in Mitzrayim (Egypt), his brothers wanted to tell their father the news without the shock being detrimental to his health, as he was of advanced age already. The person given this important task was Serach, daughter of Asher. A gifted harp player, Serach broke the news to her grandfather gently using the harp, mixing in the words that Yoseph is alive and the ruler of all Egypt. Ya’akov was so happy tha she broke the news to him so well, that he blessed her with eternal life (saying ‘May you live forever and never die). Later on, in the beginning of Sefer Shemos in an event taking place over 210 years later, Serach is again mentioned, as it was she who told Moshe where her uncle Yoseph’s bones were buried. She therefore went into Egypt together with Yaakov’s family of 70 people (in the Jewish year 2235 or 1686 BCE) and 210 years later left Egypt together with over 3 million of their descendants (in the Jewish year 2448 or 1476 BCE). Many years and generations pass until Dovid HaMelech sat on the throne. There was a failed coup caused by Sheva Ben Bichri. When Dovid ordered his general to go after Sheva ben Bichri and kill him, Sheva Ben Bichri barricaded himself in a village. It was a wise woman – Serach* who handed him over. Thus she was said to be alive in around 970 BCE. Where is she today? She is said to be on the other side of the Sambatyon river together with some of the ten lost tribes, yet to find her would be very hard. Why? Because the Sambatyon is a rough river which only rests on Shabbos – when it is muktza to cross. Furthermore one who goes with the intention of looking for it will be unable to find it, it is only able to be stumbled upon.*
Eliyahu HaNovi (Elijah the Prophet) never died either. Rather, with his student Elisha his sole witness, he was taken up to heaven by a fiery coach while still alive-so technically he never died. In fact he visits us each year on Seder night, and has occasionally appeared as a stranger to help a Jew in need. R’Yehoshua was said to be visited by him.
According to the Torah, Chanoch never died either. Rather, “Hashem took him” after 365 years. His son Meshuselach lived for 969 years! Rashi says on his death: “Chanoch was a righteous man, but he could easily be swayed to return to do evil. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, hastened and took him away and caused him to die before his time. For this reason, Scripture changed [the wording] in [the account of] his demise and wrote, ‘and he was no longer’ in the world to complete his years.”.
Next weeks question: Which person is said (according to the Midrash) to have flown?