Is Love Stronger Than Death?

April 6, 2017 | Abraham Socher
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In his laudatory review of Hillel Halkin’s After One-Hundred-and-Twenty: Reflecting on Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in the Jewish Tradition, Abraham Socher writes:

As Halkin mentions near the outset of this deeply personal book, he has already passed the “threescore and ten” years promised in Psalms, and neither he, nor any of us, expect to live the extra half-century granted to Moses. That, after all, is the point of saying “ad meah v’esrim” (until one-hundred-and-twenty), the traditional phrase upon which his book’s title plays. But this is not a death-haunted book, or, if it is, it is not, despite a lifelong hypochondria, really the prospect of his own extinction that haunts Halkin.

He writes movingly of his parents’ passing, especially his mother’s, and of his ambivalence about reciting the mourner’s kaddish for them. And he admits frankly that he cannot imagine surviving the loss of a child, though, of course, having lived in Israel for the past five decades, he has seen that happen far too often.

[Although] he is firm in his disbelief, . . . it is Halkin’s abiding love for his wife that spurs him toward a belief in some kind of immortality. “How can a love like ours simply disappear?” he asks her, “Doesn’t it have to go on existing somewhere?” Despite his biblical this-worldliness, the experience of love has given Halkin an intimation of eternity.

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