Monday, July 7, 2008

“My Name is Chagigah…”

Once, a pious man had the practice of sequestering himself in a certain place to study Maseches Chagigah, and it was his way to review it over and over again. After he knew it well, he committed it to memory. Although the man was not learned in any other tractate, he spent all his days in the study of Chagigah until he had fully mastered it.
When the man passed away he was all alone in his home and no one knew of his demise. A strange woman soon arrived on the scene and stood over his body in a posture of grief. She raised her voice in a lament until all the townspeople gathered together to investigate her loud and mournful cries.
She called out to the people of the town, “Come, let us eulogize this man and bury him and honor his memory. Let us merit the life of the world to come! For this man honored me all his life long, and saved me from being abandoned and forgotten.”
Immediately, all of the women came to sit with her, and the town gathered and mourned him with great honor. The men provided shrouds and arranged his burial, and they honored him greatly at the funeral.
All the while, the mysterious woman cried and wailed and could not be consoled.
Finally, the people of the town asked her, “Who are you?”
She said to them, “Who am I? My name is Chagigah.”
As soon as the pious man was buried, the woman disappeared. All of the townspeople knew that they had been visited by Maseches Chagigah in the form of a woman, come to them to ensure the honorable burial of her devoted student. (Medrash Tanchumah HaYoshon, as brought in Menoras HaMaor, Ner 3, VIII:3:5)
The Chofetz Chayim, zt”l, would say: “Anyone who does a single mitzvah acquires a heavenly advocate. How much more is this so when a person studies a maseches so many times until he masters it and commits it to memory! Imagine to what extent it petitions on his behalf in the upper world to save him from Gehinnom and from all of the evil forces that pursue one’s soul. Imagine to what extent it uplifts him to attain all good, and to be bound eternally together with Hashem!”

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