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Thursday
May092019

THE #1 CAUSE OF LIFE

By Rabbi Nissim Lagziel

A Joke to Begin with…

A world-renowned lecturer at a prestigious University, a specialist on the subject of smoking, decided to give a lecture on the dangers of cigarette smoking. He began the talk with a threatening and thunderous voice. “Students, in your opinion, what is the #1 cause of death? What is the most dangerous threat to human life?”

The students participating tried their luck. “Islamic terror,” one voice called out. “Traffic accidents and drunk driving,” another said. “Stress and anxiety,” said a third.

The highly qualified lecturer presented a long list of research studies, past and present, conducted in many countries, with high percentages of statistical accuracy, while establishing as scientific fact that all their suggested explanations – were erroneous!

“There’s one – and only one – thing that is the number one cause of death! What is it?” asked the lecturer again.

One of the students, Eric, known as the university’s jester, decided that he must join the discussion.

“Professor,” Eric called out, “I have the answer! I know with absolute certainty what the number one cause of death is! No question about it!” The professor, anxious to start the lecture, decided to give Eric the platform. 

“The #1 cause of death is…life! The scientific fact that supports my conclusion is that one hundred percent of those who die have lived before!”

***

This week, we read Parshas Kedoshim, which as its name implies, is a Torah portion dealing entirely with the holiness of the Jewish People. How does a Jew become holy? Simple! The answer is found in the well-known pasuk in Tehillim: “Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (34:15) By refraining from doing sins and by fulfilling positive commandments, the Jew achieves his eternal holiness. This also explains the reason for Parshas Kedoshim being “filled” with mitzvos and prohibitions. While Parshas Kedoshim is a relatively short Torah portion, only sixty-four pesukim, it also contains fifty-one commandments!

The concept of holiness occupies a prominent place in the Torah and the life of the Jew. Every Jew, even if presently not observant, looks for holiness and spiritual elevation, a connection to something higher, loftier, and more exalted. The ultimate source of holiness is Hashem. Accordingly, He is called by the name “Hakadosh Baruch hu — the Holy One, Blessed Be He.” Through this name, we ask that Hashem, the source of all holiness, should infuse His holiness within us and our world. The revelation of holiness in the world is a lengthy and long-range process, which began at Creation and will reach its fulfillment at the time of the True and Complete Redemption.

In the future, not only will Hashem be called “holy,” but every single Jew will merit this cherished and lofty title!

The Gemara states (Bava Basra 75b): “In the future, the righteous will have the name Holy recited before them, as one recites before Hashem, as is stated (Yeshayahu 4:3): “And it shall come to pass that every survivor shall be in Tzion, and everyone who is left, in Yerushalayim; “holy” shall be said of him.”

But how? Is it possible that a flesh-and-blood human being can be called “holy,” to proclaim before him “Holy, holy, holy,” like when we crown the Creator?

Another question: if every one of us would become “holy,” who exactly would be the ones to call us that? It’s impossible to say that one Jew would call another Jew “holy” because he too will be “holy”!

The answer is hidden in one verse at the start of this week’s Torah portion, as explained at length according to the illuminating teachings of Chassidus. The pasuk says: “You shall be holy, for I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy.”

The Midrash on this pasuk (Vayikra Rabba 24:9) states: “You shall be holy. Like I Am? [— No,] the Torah teaches, ‘For I am holy’ – My holiness is greater than yours.”

This Midrash is particularly challenging to understand: Is there anyone under the sun who thinks that he can be as holy as G-d? Do we need to bring proof to this effect from this pasuk? The very thought would cause any reasonable person to be the target of ridicule…

Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, in his Meor Einayim, reads this pasuk slightly differently. He didn’t change the words or the vowelization, just the punctuation, the tone.

The Midrash is to be read with an exclamation point instead of a question mark: “You shall be holy; Like I am!”

What’s the source? “The Torah teaches, ‘For I am holy’ – My holiness is greater than your holiness.” — A Jew’s holiness comes from the holiness of Hashem. The Jew can become completely nullified to his Creator, to the point that he loses his “independent” individual existence and becomes a mere reflection of all the Divine revelations from Above. This doesn’t mean that there’s a second Divine existence comparable to G-d, c”v. On the contrary, the Jew stops being a separate entity, hiding and concealing the revelation of G-dliness, and he reveals the true reality that every Jew is “actually a part of G-d Above”!

“Holy like I am” is only possible if your holiness is purely Hashem’s holiness!

By contrast, the angels are merely spiritual creations, lacking this amazing quality of a Jew. They are the ones who will recognize us as being “holy” when the Geulah comes, they are the ones who will call out “Holy, Holy, Holy” before every Jew, as they proclaim before Hashem Himself, because they will appreciate this unique and eternal connection – the actual reality of every Jew as a part of Hashem’s blessed existence!

This sublime holiness to be experienced at the Geulah will lead to the eternal life of that time, with no death whatsoever. The reason is simple: when the True and Complete Redemption will finally come, only then will all come to recognize the ultimate connection between man and G-d, which  will be revealed in the fullest physical sense so that he will live forever! This is alluded to in the words of Tanna D’vei Eliyahu, which interprets the pasuk mentioned above in a somewhat different way:

“The school of Eliyahu teaches: The righteous whom the Holy One, Blessed be He, is destined to resurrect do not return to their dust, as it is stated (Yeshayahu 4:3): “And it shall come to pass that every survivor shall be in Tzion, and everyone who is left, in Yerushalayim; “holy” shall be said of him, everyone inscribed for life in Yerushalayim.” Just as the Holy One exists forever, so too will they exist forever.” (Sanhedrin 92a)

Just as G-d is holy and lives forever, so too we are holy and live forever!

Instead of researching the causes of death let’s reveal and internalize the #1 cause for eternal life – holiness!

To End with a story:

The following story took place on Erev Rosh Hashanah 5716:

The G. family lived in Crown Heights between Brooklyn and New York Avenues, not far from the Rebbe’s home.

It was on Erev Rosh Hashanah, when the Rebbe was walking along the sidewalk in front of the G. family’s home on his way to his own house. Suddenly, the Rebbe saw a little girl from the G. family run and fall on the sidewalk. The child began to cry uncontrollably, and her mother, who was in an advanced state of pregnancy, rushed outside to pick up her daughter and calm her down.

That evening, the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe davened Maariv, as he customarily did, in the “zal” on the first floor of 770 (this was before the large Beis Medrash was built on the basement floor). The shul was packed, and due to the lack of space, Rabbi G., the girl’s father, was standing near the staircase across from the Rebbe’s holy chamber.

When Maariv had ended, the Rebbe left the shul and walked towards his room. Suddenly, he noticed Rabbi G. standing near the staircase due to the crowded conditions. The Rebbe looked at him, and with a gesture of his head, he motioned the Chassid to enter his holy room

As is known, our Rebbe’im were very stringent about refraining from talking on the night of Rosh Hashanah, even about holy matters and words of Torah, and this was surely not the time for personal discussions. Rabbi G. was very surprised and quite perplexed. He motioned with his hand that he had nothing particular to request from the Rebbe, and he was standing there because he had no other choice.

However, the Rebbe would not relent, and this time the Rebbe motioned to Rabbi G. with his holy hand that he should enter his room. The Chassid was quite startled, as he didn’t know what was happening nor the reason why he was being invited to enter the Rebbe’s chamber on the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

With fear and trepidation, he stood facing the Rebbe, who then turned to him and asked:

“How is your little girl who fell this afternoon?”

“Thank G-d, everything’s fine,” he replied, visibly confused.

“Is she feeling all right?” the Rebbe continued to inquire.

“Yes, thank G-d, she’s quite well. Nothing happened.”

“If so,” the Rebbe said, “please tell your wife that she should take care of herself and not run too fast…”

We have no one more holy than the Rebbe, and true holiness takes expression in the boundless love for a fellow Jew, even for the simplest and the “smallest” among our people.

Good Shabbos!

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1 & 7, Parshas Kedoshim; Sefer HaMa’amarim – MeLukat Dibur Hamaschil V’Nikdashti).

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