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Monday, 20 February 2017

Can your kids pick up where you leave off?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 29


Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz was the founding rabbi of the Jewish community of Temecula, California.  In 2013, he was diagnosed with ALS and he quickly began losing his fine motor skills.  Today, he is confined to life in bed, surrounded by his loving wife, Dina, and seven children.

But Rabbi Yitzi never let his illness end his life’s mission to inspire others and bring them closer to our Father in Heaven.  Each week, incredibly he writes a Torah blog, using his eyes to choose letters on a computer screen.  Letter by letter, painstakingly he composes his weekly D’var Torah, which is read by thousands across the globe.

In 2014, his daughter discovered an SD memory card and inserted it into her computer.  Lo and behold, it was a song that Rabbi Yitzi had composed and roughly recorded.  She showed it to her mother who shared it with members of the Jewish music industry that she knew.  They loved it and arranged for it to be recorded by a conglomerate of all the top Chasidic music artists in the world today.  Shine a Little Light became an instant hit and Rabbi Yitzi became a household name and an inspiration to Jews everywhere.

The Gemara asks: Whence do we derive that three years of property occupancy establishes a presumption of ownership?
Rava says: The first year, an owner can forgive a squatter, the second year he could likewise forgive, but three years, one would not forgive!
Abaye said to him: But now, when the property returns to its owner, it should return without the fruit yielded in the meantime.  If you are correct that the first two years an owner forgives, why did Rav Nachman teach, “The property returns and the fruit must be returned?”
Rashi explains: Further in this chapter . . .
RASHI Z”L DIED HERE.  From here on, it is the explanation of Rabbeinu Shmuel ben Rabbi Meir (Rashbam). 
Rashbam explains: Further in this chapter, Rav Nachman teaches that if an occupant fails to produce proof of ownership after two years, the property returns to the original owner and he must recompense him for the fruit yield.

This page of the Gemara always bring tears to my eyes.  Stop and picture what happened here.  I can’t imagine Rashi took a break in the middle of an explanation to run some errands.  If his commentary discontinues mid-sentence, that was probably his final moment on Earth. 

What happens next is simply awe-inspiring.  Rashi’s commentary doesn’t come to an end.  It is picked up by his grandson, Shmuel, who finishes not only his grandfather's sentence, but the remainder of the tractate!

That is incredible on so many levels.  Firstly, it is a tribute to Rashi that his grandchildren were able to step into his huge shoes.  Sometimes great people are so focused on their own achievements in life that they fail to take the time to invest in their own offspring.  Not Rashi, his children and grandchildren were great Torah leaders who similarly left volumes of inspiration for all generations.

But the second aspect of the matter that I find breathtaking is the fact that Rashi’s family knew exactly what his dreams were.  Following his passing, they immediately saw to it that his vision and life-goals were completed.  They knew that he had set out to write a commentary on the Talmud and they were determined to bring that dream to fruition.

What are your life-goals?  What great spiritual projects are you in the midst of?  Do your family members know your dreams?  Are they able to complete your vision if you are no longer able to?  In Rashi’s case, he passed on but his grandchildren knew what needed to be done with his commentary.

In Rabbi Hurwitz’s case, he is Baruch Hashem still going strong but he can no longer perform his own music.  His family has figured out not only how to bring his music to the world, but with the wonders of modern technology, they’ve found a way to help him continue teaching Torah around the world!  We pray that a cure for ALS be found very soon and that he have a refuah sheleimah!

No matter what stage of life you find yourself, if you’re still kicking, you should be deep in the midst of a spiritual life-goal project.  Maybe it’s fundraising to build a new shul.  Maybe it’s ending homelessness in your town.  Maybe it’s writing a powerfully-inspiring movie script.  Maybe it’s learning all the way through Tanach.  My wife and kids know that my current goal is to write a ‘peirush oif gantz Shas’ – an inspirational message on every page of the Talmud!  Whatever your goal is, make sure your loved ones know about it, so that they can complete it if and when you no longer can.

And if you’re ever thinking you’re no longer up for a new project, just think of Rashi who never retired till his very last day.  Or think about Rabbi Yitzi who literally spends hours plugging away at his weekly D’var Torah, letter by letter.  And while we’re on the topic, if you’re ever feeling like life’s got the better of you and you can’t deal with the challenges you’re facing, just go online and watch the video of Rabbi Yitzi creating his D’var Torah from his hospital bed.  Most of us have no clue what the word challenge even means.

Let us briefly return to our Daf and remember that nothing in life is coincidental.  Dr. Nathan Light teaches that it wasn’t by chance that Rashi handed over the reins to his grandson when he did.  Rav Nachman’s teaching was that the fruits accompany the field when it returns to its owner.  When we return to our Owner, will we be proud of our fruits – our children and grandchildren?  Will we be able to say that we are one with them?  That they understood our mission?  That we made our life’s message so crystal clear to them that they are able to smoothly slip into our shoes and continue our life-goals?


What is your life-goal?  What project are you in the midst of right now?  Do your loved ones know how to pick up precisely where you leave off?  May you make every second on Earth count and may your fruit be one with you!