Posts Tagged death

The Shadow of a Flying Bird by Mordicai Gerstein

I often get requests for book recommendations and frequently they involve books that can explain death to a child. Sadly, these books are few and far between. In these books, we are looking for someone to say something that we don’t know how to say ourselves, to explain something to our children that we don’t really understand. You want a book that includes platitudes on death? I got plenty of those. But they aren’t worth much.

The Shadow of a Flying Bird

The Shadow of a Flying Bird

My favorite book by leaps and bounds for this difficult topic is The Shadow of a Flying Bird by Mordicai Gerstein. It isn’t actually about the death of a loved one, but rather about the impending death of Moses. Don’t stop reading — I’ll explain, I promise. Based on a Midrash (a story created to explain parts of the Bible), Gerstein shows Moses at his final moments, as God allows him to see the Promised Land but not to enter it. At this moment, though he has lived for 120 years, Moses begs to live longer. He prays 515 prayers and begs to even become a sheep or a butterfly. But God says: “Everything born has a time to die. … I cannot change that.”

Moses begs the hills and the mountains to plead on his behalf, and then the sun and the moon. But each time, he is reminded that everything must come to an end. When finally Moses gives up, God asks each of His angels, Gabriel, Michael and Zagzagle, to take Moses’ soul and each refuses:

God turned to His angel Zagzagle.

“I command you,” He said. “Bring me the soul of Moses.”

And Zagzagle wept and said, “Oh Lord of Heaven, he is my disciple and I am his teacher. How can I take the soul of one I love?”

In the end, even Moses’ soul was desperate to stay in his body, begging to remain even after God promises the soul he can sit beside Him on his throne of glory. And finally, it is God that must take Moses’ soul and even then, he weeps a he does it, fearing that never again will there be someone who will “oppose evildoers … speak for me and love me as Moses did…”

It’s a heartbreaking book with incredible artwrok and stirring text. And really, at the end of the day, it doesn’t need to have anything to do with Moses or God or the Bible if you don’t want it to. At the end of the day, it’s the closest description to the feeling we go through when we lose a loved one. And this is what you can tell your children: that each person is as important as Moses. That everytime a person dies, the whole world pleads on his/her behalf; even the angels don’t want to take them and separate us from the one we love; even his/her soul doesn’t wanted to be parted. But that everyone has his or her time and nothing we can do changes that.

On that happy note, have a wonderful weekend!

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