Rabbi Benjamin Blech Writes a Graceful Book About all Three
It’s not often an author writes a book many people find truly life-changing. Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a beloved teacher of Talmud at Yeshiva University for over 50 years, has accomplished just that with his latest book, Hope, Not Fear: Changing the Way We View Death. Written with the purpose of changing our perceptions of death, this book conveys beautifully written, important and inspiring messages – death is not to be feared, there is more to us than just the body, and we must live each day as if it is our last.
Rabbi Blech has a deeply personal reason for conveying these thoughts. Approximately six years ago, Rabbi Benjamin Blech received shocking news. He was diagnosed with a fatal heart disease and was told he had six months to live. “After the initial shock of receiving a death sentence from my doctor, I had to face the reality that we all seek to avoid in spite of its universal inevitability,” he recalled, “and this confrontation with my fatal diagnosis inspired me to search for meaningful answers.”
After reviewing everything he knew about death from science, mysticism and theology, “what I did discover has given me a great gift that I want to share with others. I no longer fear death. Even as I treasure every moment of life more than before, I await my end with the certainty beautifully captured by the Roman philosopher Seneca that ‘the day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.’ What led me to this conclusion is the theme of this book.”
He draws upon his deep faith, personal experience and knowledge of Jewish tradition and scholarship to come to his inspirational conclusions. Rabbi Blech writes with eloquence and insight, conveying a message of hope. He assures us, “There is life after this life.”
He emphasizes that we all have a soul and knowing that should make us lead our lives in a more fulfilled, purpose-driven way. “The two most important days of your life,” he says, quoting Mark Twain, “are the day you were born and the day you figured out why.” This book encourages the reader to figure out the “why” and to find and develop our own unique talent to use in positive ways. What comes through in these pages is Rabbi Blech’s genuine desire to help people improve their lives.
“How we answer the question of what happens after we die, and what we know about death, are the keys to how we should live,” said Rabbi Blech. He encourages each of us to live life to the fullest. “By living life to the fullest,” said Rabbi Blech, “all the clichés become real—love, compassion, kindness and to push oneself to make each day count. To make the moments we are most proud of and make them the essence of our lives.” In the book, he also discusses the renewed look at life of people who’ve experienced near-death experiences. They’re not afraid of death. Quite the contrary, many feel they were sent back because they have more to fulfill.
A tenth-generation rabbi, Rabbi Blech was inspired by his father who felt his son had unique talents and the gift to influence people. From that inspiration, he set out to dedicate his life to helping people find spirituality and be sensitive to God. It’s a theme he continues in this book. “If there is a God and an afterlife, I have to live my life differently,” is his message.
“The book’s intent is to give people purpose, young and old,” said Rabbi Blech. “It takes the reality of confronting death to appreciate life.”
Rabbi Blech is the author of over 20 books, including The Sistine Secrets, If God Is Good, Why Is The World So Bad? and Understanding Judaism. But Of Hope, Not Fear, said Rabbi Blech, “this one is my most personal. This one is my legacy.”