Did Yaakov Die?

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Rembrandt_-_Jacob_Blessing_the_Children_of_Joseph_-_WGA19117The Gemara (Ta’anis 5a) says that Ya’akov did not die because Gen. 49:33 does not use the word “die”:

And Yaakov ended his charge to his sons, drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last breath, and was gathered to his people.

In this appendix to a book I wrote on Lubavitch messianism, I provide 20 different explanations to this midrashic passage.

You can download the appendix here: link (PDF)

The entire book and supplemental material are available here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. I think the problem is trying to explain this in English. In Hebrew, where we have two verbs for dying, it’s easier: Yaaqov was niftar, he left this world. However, the manner in which he did so doesn’t qualify for the verb misah.

  2. Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky quotes another explanation that i think is not included in the above book (from http://shaalvim.blogspot.co.il/):

    Degel Machaneh Ephraim (Parshat Ma’asei) offers an interesting insight into this Chazal. Yaakov is typically associated with truth. Chazal wish to convey the idea that truth lasts forever. There are many frivolities in life, often tempting and always fleeting. What ultimately endures forever is that which is predicated on objective truth… If we ourselves want to “live on forever,” the way to accomplish this is through a strong and firm commitment to truth…

  3. Also see the Chochmas Manoach who says that Yaakov being alive is referring to him being alive at the time he was transported back to EY. See here – http://www.dafyomi.co.il/taanis/insites/tn-dt-005.htm

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