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Saturday, 10 January 2015

How to talk when you're dead

Daf Yomi Yevamos 97

Rabbi Moses Sofer, the Chasam Sofer, was a world renowned rabbi in the early nineteenth century.  When he died in 1839, he was buried in his city of Pressburg, later to become Bratislava.  Nearly a century later, the wicked Slovak regime, collaborators with the Nazis, decided to destroy the Jewish cemetery and build a railroad.  But every time they attempted any work in the area, something terrible happened.  One worker got jammed in a machine and died; another got trapped overnight and froze to death.  Eventually they gave up and built a bridge over the graves. 

Similarly, we have many incredible stories about the graves of our righteous leaders being opened only to find their bodies completely intact after many years.  Why are their bodies so preserved?

In the Book of Psalms, King David beseeches G-d, “May I live in Your tent for worlds!”
Rabbi Judah quoted Rav: Is it possible for a person to live in two worlds at once?  King David was saying to Hashem, “Master of the universe, may it be Your will that they repeat words of mine in this world,” for Rabbi Yochanan taught in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, “Any Torah scholar whose words are repeated in this world, his lips stir in the grave.”

Ethics of the Fathers teaches that “the world was created with ten declarations.”  The meaning, according to Kabbalah, is that the letters from the ten declarations in Genesis combined to form every creation, through billions of permutations and combinations.   The blueprint of creation was the Torah and the letters of the Torah are what sustain creation.

When a Torah scholar offers a novel insight in Torah, he becomes a partner in creation.  Our Sages teach us that “any teaching that an erudite student innovates in Torah was already given to Moses at Sinai.”  While Moses may not have learned that particular piece of Torah, he was taught the principles to innovate and create in Torah.  Any future Torah scholar who is fortunate to behold such a novel interpretation within the framework of tradition has the merit of expanding creation by furthering the permutation and combination process of the original ten declarations.

And so even after his soul has passed on to the next world, he retains a special connection to this world, having partnered in its creation.  Every time his teaching is mentioned, his body is ‘reawakened’ in the grave and his lips stir, so to speak.  This occurs because the entire fabric of creation that he has given life to is energized every time his Torah teaching is repeated. 

Judaism is unique in our belief in the resurrection of the dead.  The ultimate reward is when the soul and body will be reunited in this world.   The Talmud teaches that while most people will have to wait some time before rising, the righteous will be resurrected immediately upon the ushering in of the messianic era.  Now you understand why.  Even after they’ve died, they’re still alive.  Their lips are constantly moving every time their Torah is repeated.  They are as alive as creation itself!

Three times a day we all pray to G-d, “Please grant us our portion in your Torah!”  Each and every one of us has a special portion in the Torah to innovate and create.   But as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says, you need to be a Torah scholar first, before you can offer anything meaningful that will be worth repeating for all time.  May you merit becoming a Torah scholar, innovating in Torah, becoming one with creation, and living in two worlds simultaneously until ultimately you are one of the first to rise and greet Moshiach!  

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