How Do We Measure The Life Of A Man?

One of my favorite Broadway songs is called,” Seasons of Love”. In one of the later stanzas the song says,

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned

Or in the times that he cried

In the bridges he burned

Or the way that she died.”

Those lyrics came rushing to my head when I heard Evan Osnos, the author of a new book on Joe Biden called, “Joe Bidden the Life, the Run, and What Matters Now”, speak about Joe Biden’s life and in particular how he handled a situation in which he truly faced his immediate death. As the song said, you measure a life in many ways including the way you die.

Let me share a comparison of two different ways that people handled their imminent death.

We all know and love King David. “David Melech Yisrael Chai Chai Vekayam.”

But the young lad who valiantly fought the giant David also ordered the death of a man who was an officer in his army, so that he could take his wife, Batsheva.

In the Bible, Kings chapter 2, King David knows he is dying and calls in his son Solomon who will be the next king and admonishes him to follow God’s ways and His commandments. Then, very Don Corleone godfather like he instructs Solomon to settle old scores. Joab the son of Zeruiah, his general, sided with one of King David’s sons in a palace coup that failed but he was still alive. David tells Solomon,” So act in accordance with your wisdom, and see that his white hair does not go down to Sheol in peace.” In other words, make sure he doesn’t die of old age.

Also Shimei son of Gera who had insulted David “outrageously” but David was too weak to do anything about it, and then promised that as long as he was alive he would never kill him, told Solomon to make sure that he, “send his gray hair down to Sheol in blood”. This approach to death is to first make sure you get revenge on your enemies even posthumously.

Contrast that with Joe Biden.

Joe had two extremely dangerous brain aneurisms. It was so precarious his doctor summoned Joe’s priest to administer the last rites even before Jill could get to the hospital because they feared he wouldn’t make it. Before going under the knife, Joe called his two boys over and said to them that if I don’t come out of this you will be okay. You will have a life ahead of you of decency and of honor. He later said of that moment that he could go into surgery with peace knowing he had given his sons all that.

As a country divided and hurt by pandemic and tribal warfare, we do not need the vengeful transactional attitude of King David, but the healing of someone who has lived that hurt and come back to continue a productive and healed life.

As always, the choice of what we get is in your hands.

Vote and share this with your friends and family.

I am a retired Conservative Rabbi. I was a pulpit Rabbi for 40 years. I supervise a chain of kosher Delis called Ben's .