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Sunday, 7 September 2014

How do you want to be buried?


Daf Yomi Moed Katan 27

When Canada’s famed businessman Reichmann passed on, he was worth over a billion dollars and left two wills.  One, he instructed be opened immediately upon his passing; the other to be opened after a month.  His children obeyed his last wishes and at his death opened the first envelope.

“My children,” he wrote, “Please make sure I am buried in my favourite pair of blue socks.”  They immediately ran off to the Chevra Kadisha (Jewish burial society) to relay their father’s wishes and hand over the socks.
“Absolutely not,” replied the director, “we only bury in tachrichim (traditional shrouds).  That’s how everyone is buried and we will make no exception, even for your father.”
“Our father built this city!” they replied. “Have you no respect for the dead?”  They summonsed the Chevra Kadisha to a Din Torah (Jewish legal proceedings), but much to their chagrin, the rabbis ruled in favour of the Chevra.  Despondently, they accepted the decision and Reichmann was buried.

Thirty days later, they opened the second envelope which read, “By now, you would have buried me sans socks.  Know, dear kinderlach (children), that a man can spend a lifetime amassing an empire.  But even if he should acquire assets of over a billion dollars, he will not be able to take so much as a pair of socks with him.  Never forget what is truly important in life.” 

Originally, the funeral expenses were even harder on the relatives of the deceased than his actual death, to the extent that relatives would often dump the body and run.  Eventually, Chief Rabbi Gamliel came along and put aside his honour by instructing that he be buried in simple linen shrouds.  Sure enough, the people followed his lead and began burying their dead in simple linen shrouds.

Many of us spend a lifetime chasing the dollar.  The more we have, the more we crave.  We want more beautiful houses, faster cars, the latest mod-cons.  But for what?  After 120, can you take any of it with you?

It’s time to ask yourself, ‘What’s truly important in life?  What’s my ultimate goal and purpose? What happens next?’  Not surprisingly, you’ll find that priorities suddenly shift.  It’s about family.  It's about community.  It's about giving.  It’s about spirituality.  It’s about Torah and mitzvos. 

Keep a pair of socks on your mantelpiece.  You will never lose sight of your ultimate goals and purpose.