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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Whatever happened to Reichman's socks?

Daf Yomi Nazir 44


We’re all familiar with the story of Reichman who leaves two wills, the first that requests he be buried in his favourite socks; the second, when opened at the shloshim, confirms to his children that you can’t take anything with you once your time on this earth is complete – not even your socks.   There is a postscript that is often left out of the story.   What happened to the famous socks?  Some say that Reichman’s son decided to wear that pair of socks every day onwards following that incident. 

But why would he want to wear his deceased father’s socks? 

Abaye said:  I found the friends of Rav Noson bar Hoshiya sitting and discussing the verse, “And he (the impure man) shall come before Hashem to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and give them (the offerings) to the cohen.”  When does he come? Only if he has immersed and the sun has set.  If he has not experienced immersion and sunset, he may not.  We see from here that even if has immersed, he is still considered just as impure as one who has not yet immersed.
I said to them: If so, you must also conclude that an impure nazir, concerning whom the verse states, “to the cohen to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting,” when does he come? Only if he has immersed and the sun has set.
Let’s see: Where was the Nikanor Gate (the successor to the Tent of Meeting entrance)?  In the Levite camp.  But we have learned: An impure person may enter the Levite camp!  Indeed, not only may an impure person enter, but even a corpse itself, as the verse states, “And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him (out of Egypt).”  What does ‘with him’ mean?  With him in his zone, with him in the Levite camp.

As the Children of Israel were leaving Egypt, they were all running around gathering up the gold and silver of their Egyptian neighbours.  All except one man.  Moshe was busy gathering the bones of Yosef for reinternment in the Holy Land.   While that description itself is precious, the story of his dedication does not end there.  Throughout their forty year sojourn in the Wilderness, he kept the bones with him!  He didn’t simply leave them at the outskirts of the camp, they were constantly in his zone!

Why?  Because Moshe would use them to remind himself of the temporary nature of this world.  Reichman’s son could have listened to his father’s last will and testament and thought, ‘What an incredible message’ and then gotten back into his everyday life.  By choosing to don his father’s socks, he adopted a constant reminder of the temporariness of this world.

Every time he would stress out about a business deal that didn’t go his way, he would remember the socks and tell himself that it is really not that important.  Every time he had to decide what kind of car to buy, or if he needed the latest mod-con, he would rub his feet together and remember that nothing in this world has any eternal meaning or significance.

What are you carrying with you to remind you that this life is merely a corridor to prepare ourselves for the real world?  Some people I know carry a pocket Tehillim (Psalms).  You can’t really read much from it – the writing is way too small – but it reminds them why they’re here.  Maybe it’s a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank that you carry.  Maybe you’re reminded simply by the tzitzis you wear on your back. 


Whatever it is that keeps you focused on the mission, keep it close to you.  May you merit a life that is meaningful every ‘step’ of the journey!