The following is an excerpt from a devar Torah by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple.
Chapter 27, verse 2 sees Isaac telling Esau, Lo yadati yom moti – “I know not the day of my death”. Since no-one – with such rare exceptions that they do not count – knows the date they will die, the translators often decided not to render these words literally. One version reads, “I know not how soon I may die”. Another says, “There is no telling when I may die”.
When the day of one’s death is addressed by the rabbinic sages in Pir’kei Avot, they find a remarkable lesson for life. First comes the saying in the name of Rabbi Eliezer, “Repent one day before your death” (Avot 2:10). Then in Avot D’Rabbi Natan we hear that the students of Rabbi Eliezer asked him, “Does anyone know the day he will die, so that he will be able to repent?” The teacher replied, “All the more should one repent today, in case he dies tomorrow; let him repent tomorrow, in case he dies the next day. Thus all his days will be spent in repentance.”
The Talmud (Shabbat 153a) quotes Kohelet 9:8, “Let your garments always be white”, and adds a parable about a king who summoned his servants to a banquet without specifying a time. The wiser servants immediately put on festive garb so as to be ready whenever the time was announced; the others thought there would always be time.
The following is an excerpt from an email I received from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.
The serpent, whose deceitful words created a barrier between God and man, was cursed: “And dust shall you eat all the days of your life” (Bereishis 3:14). The Talmud (Berachos 12b) interprets the phrase “all the days of your life” in another verse of the Torah (Devarim 16:3) as referring to the Messianic era. Thus, at the End of Days, all creatures will be cured of their maladies except for the serpent. And just as “the snake bites because it was not charmed” [i.e. cured of its curse] so too “there will be no advantage [i.e. remedy] for the master of the tongue” (from Koheles 10:11). Those who habitually speak loshon hora will, like the serpent, find no cure for themselves at the End of Days (Midrash Aggadas Bereishis 79:2 and Pirkei D’R’ Eliezer ch. 52). Their only hope is to repent now.