Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Dread of Death

Rabbeinu Yonah, zt”l, writes that one who is happy only on people’s birthday but is deeply saddened for the deceased on the day he dies lacks true understanding. Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zt”l, explains, “Why should one be sad for the departed? We believe that every person has a mission to fulfill in this world and when it is done he is recalled. Rabbeinu Yonah alludes to a famous parable to illustrate this concept. Once there a merchant who sent his son out to do business in a distant land. When the son has completed his time abroad and returned home to his father, is the departed to be pitied? Surely not! On the contrary, it is good that the son returns to his father since the purpose of his leaving in the first place was to make a profit and return home.”
So we should not feel that death is a great loss for the one who dies. But sometimes people take this too far, as Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, explained regarding the purpose of melikah as opposed to shechitah. “Why does shechitah suffice for he rich man’s sacrifice but the poor man’s must have melikah? Why not do shechitah on bird korbanos like we do for animals? To understand this we must consider why sacrifices are slaughtered. This is to break the heart of the sinner since he will contemplate that it is fitting to kill him instead of the animal. That is enough to break the heart of a wealthy man who brings an animal, but what about a poor man? He has such a hard life that he may literally prefer death. After all, once it’s over he will stop suffering and eventually enjoy his eternal reward. This is why we do melikah which is much more painful. This is to show that until one dies things can also be very bitter. And death itself can also be very painful. It is only in this way that the poor person will also break his heart and do teshuvah.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Yehudis,

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Rivka Rochel