motzei Shabbos: parasha Vayechi 5783 -Bundle of Life

Vayechi Yaakov (And Jacob lived).” – Genesis 47:28, JPS 1917 Tanach

When Jacob arrived with his family, having traveled from the land of Canaan to Egypt, to where Joseph, his son greeted him, he and his family settled in the land of Goshen. Jacob spent the last seventeen years of his life there, comforted by his reunion with Joseph, and the bountiful plenty of the most choice land in all of Egypt. The land of Goshen encapsulated an environment, somewhat removed from Egypt proper, therefore, providing an isolated locale for Jacob’s family to preserve the values of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moreover, goshen, meaning “drawing near” was a place where the twelve tribes of Jacob could “draw near” to H’Shem; so, with this in mind, Jacob “sojourned” in the land of Egypt” (Psalm 105), while setting his hopes on Olam Haba. For to sojourn means to reside temporarily in a place; while, on the other hand, Jacob knew that his true home was with H’Shem.

During years prior, he was able to transcend his circumstances by prevailing upon H’Shem’s covenantal promises to him, thereby triumphing over Laban and Esau. He endured much while working for his Uncle Laban; he also was greatly disconcerted in regard to his encounter with his brother, Esau. Yet, H’Shem was with him in the midst of his trials – this exemplifies H’Shem’s immanence. At other times, when H’Shem seems more distant from us, this denotes His transcendence, and should compel us to pray to Him, as did Jacob.

In the last seventeen years of his life, Jacob was drawing near to his more permanent home, when he would be “gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:29). The “bundle of life,” wherein the souls of the righteous are wrapped up in the light of G-d in Shomayim (Heaven) is implied by this phrase. Therefore, to be gathered to his people means to be blessed with G-d’s presence in Eternity.

Vayechi Yaakov (Jacob lives); for, his soul continues to live, basking in the light of G-d until the time of the Tehillas HaMeisim (Resurrection of the Dead), when souls are restored to their resurrected bodies, at the beginning of Olam Haba (the World to Come).

parasha Chayei Sarah 5783

parasha Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 – 25:18) 5783

“And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” – Genesis 23:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

It’s interesting to note, that Judaism is often regarded as a worldly religion, focusing on our earthly lives, while placing less emphasis on the next life, otherwise known as Olam Haba – the World-to-Come. However, when we delve into Torah, looking below the surface of the plain meaning, we begin to see a different picture. Additionally, the teachings of chazal (the sages), can inform us as well, concerning a perspective that brings us into a fuller knowledge of Torah.

Torah itself is compared to the ocean, perhaps, because its depths are unfathomable. Moreover, it is recorded in Torah, that the number of creatures in the ocean are uncountable; perhaps, this also applies to Torah itself, in regard to the many facets of Torah. It is said that there are seventy faces of Torah, connoting the teaching that Torah presents its mysteries in many ways.

The parasha begins with the death of Sarah, a seemingly disconnected beginning to a narrative entitled Chayei Sarah – the Life of Sarah. Yet, the first word of the parasha, vayechi, meaning “life,” according to R’ Bachya implies “something that exists permanently,” thereby, it could be inferred that this hints toward the understanding that her soul would “take up permanent residence in the celestial regions” (R. Bachya, commentary on Genesis 23:1, sefaria.org).

In this respect, Chayei Sarah, the Life of Sarah may be understood as an implicit message or remez (hint), concerning Sarah’s continued existence in Olam Haba. Thus, the title of the parasha points to the promise of an afterlife for the righteous in the World-to-Come.

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Omer: Day 25 One Life to Live

Netzach shebbe Netzach: Endurance within Endurance:

(The attribute of netzach may also be rendered as “victory” or “eternity”).

The attribute of Netzach carries the weight of eternity on its shoulders, in like manner that Atlas, in the Greek myth, carried the world on his shoulders. In truth, G-d carries both of these burdens for all of mankind. Yet, we may be made privy to them in a manner that is not burdensome: our place in this world, and our time in eternity is sweetened by the victory of life over death, as mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. “He will swallow up death for ever; and the L-RD G-D will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The question is not often asked, what is the ultimate purpose of our lives? Nor, is the answer readily inferred from worldly knowledge; nor, deduced from general knowledge. Yet, G-d has placed eternity in our hearts, so that we might have a glimpse of eternity within us. Therefore, we are able to aspire towards that eternity, having sensed a time and place of continual existence in our heart. Otherwise, what reward will we have at the end of a life well-lived? If we endure the challenges of this life for the sake of monetary gain, pleasure, or posterity, then we are being misled by the false promises of this world.

Consider endurance of each and every day, living our lives for the sake of an eternal reward, knowing that this life is a test. “This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare yourself in the vestibule, that you mayest enter into the banquet hall” (Pirkei Avos 4:21). We are to prepare ourselves, through the refinement of our character, and living a morally upright life, according to G-d’s standard, for the sake of obtaining a good place in Olam Haba (the World to Come). This begins upon our admittance into the coronation banquet of the King, at the beginning of the Messianic Era. For the soul lives on for eternity.

Yahrzeit: Yaakov ben Dovid

erev 29 Kislev 5782 (December 3, 2021)

in memorial: 29 Kislev 5779

on the occasion of my father’s third yahrzeit:

“This world is like a lobby for Olam Haba, the World-to-Come;

prepare yourself in the lobby, so that you may enter the Banquet Hall.”

– Pirkei Avos 4:21

The Jewish Sages envision the reward for a righteous life as a Great Banquet, where at the end of history we will partake of a great feast, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be present. In other words, this life is a test, how we live this life, determines the quality of our place in Olam Haba, the World-to-Come.

My father lived his life with a profound sense of emunah in H’Shem (belief in G-d). This can be demonstrated by a few examples: Years ago, my father would walk six miles to synagogue on Yom Kippur, and he would stay there for the entire day. Many years prior, when he was in the Korean War, on a particular night of fierce fighting in the trenches, he prayed to G-d, that if lived, he would stop smoking on the Sabbath. He lived, and he kept his commitment; he eventually stopped smoking altogether.

My father passed away towards the end of the month of Kislev, when the light reflected from the moon is barely visible. Yet, that day was also the fifth day of Chanukah. If you envision a menorah with the shamosh, the servant candle in the middle, there are four places for candles to the left of the shamash, and four to the right. On the eve of the fifth day of Chanukah, we light five candles. Therefore, that is the first day of Chanukah, in a sense, when there is more light than darkness.

In parashas Vayechi, the narrative begins “vayechi Yaakov” – “and Jacob lived.” Although the passage speaks of his death, the word “vayechi,” meaning “life,” implies “something that exists permanently” – that is the soul that continues to live. As the Sages say, “Jacob lives.” I believe that my father lives, and that after the Tehillas HaMeisim, the Resurrection of the Dead, he will partake of the Great Banquet, that marks the beginning of Olam Haba, the World-to-Come. May we all merit, to also partake of the Great Banquet.

Tradition & Remembrance

Halloween, traditionally known as All Hallow’s Eve was originally a solemn vigil that preceded All Hallow’s Day (All Saints Day) on November 1st. Although, apparently, there were pagan origins to the day itself, before the Church’s innovation, for Western civilization in Europe, the day connoted respect for the dead, within a traditional Christian framework. Therefore, having superseded the pagan origins, the intent was to prepare for the remembrance of the saints the next day, as well as all of the departed souls, remembered on All Soul’s Day (November 2nd). It was believed that prayers could be offered on behalf of the dead who were in purgatory, that they might eventually be freed in order to make their ascent to Heaven.

In the Jewish tradition, we have nothing of the sort on this day that is reckoned according to the Gregorian calendar. Rather, we have Yizkor, and other traditions to commemorate our loved ones who have passed away. Yet, there are some striking similarities, if I dare to mention some of them. When we say the kaddish prayer, in particular, this is a prayer that specifically praises G-d, and does not mention death at all. Because the dead can no longer perform mitzvoth (good deeds), we say prayers on their behalf, so to speak, to bring them closer to G-d; thus, I believe that even if they are in Gehenna, their souls may benefit for the good. When lighting a yahrzeit (memorial) candle, on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, a traditional prayer requests an aliyah (ascent) for the soul of the one who has passed away. Respect for the dead is of the utmost importance in Judaism.

motzei Shabbos: Chayei Olam

Introduction:

“If those who never lived, now live, surely those who have lived, will live again!”

– Geviha ben Pesisa; found in R’Nissan Dovid Dubov’s To Live and Live Again

In this commentary, the miraculous nature of the Tehillas HaMeism (Resurrection of the Dead) is compared to the miracle of life itself. Do we ever stop to think about this? Judaism teaches that before a soul is fused with the newborn, that soul is waiting in the treasury of souls, to enter this world, upon being assigned a mission. This journey, and the subsequent placing of the soul in a body – if we consider for a moment this amazing feat – is astounding beyond compare; for, where there was no life, there is now a life brought into the world. How much more so should we be able to wonder at the ability of G-d to restore the soul to the body, after the body has been resurrected? And, yet, in reflecting on this, one may begin to ponder even more, whether life itself or life after death is more miraculous.

parashas Chayei Sarah

selected passages: Genesis 23:1-20, 25:7-10

In parashas Chayei Sarah, meaning, the “Life of Sarah,” there appears to be an immediate incongruous passage, at the beginning of the parashas. While the first pasuk (verse) notes how many years made up Sarah’s life, the very next verse mentions that she passed away. The following passage continues with a narrative concerning Abraham’s mourning for her, and subsequent challenge in obtaining a proper burial place for her. Yet, hidden within the very first Hebrew word of the parashas, is a remez (hint) towards the naming of the parashas having to do with the life of Sarah: vayihyu, meaning “life,” according to R’ Bachya implies “something that exists permanently,” thereby, it could be inferred that this hints towards the understanding that her soul would “take up permanent residence in the celestial regions” (R. Bachya, commentary on Genesis 23:1, sefaria.org). Thus, the title of the parashas, Chayei Sarah (the Life of Sarah) points toward the reward of chayei olam – eternal life – for the righteous.

This perspective on the hidden meaning of the parashas, is further exemplified by a reference to chayei olam (eternal life), in regard to the life of Abraham: “And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). This phrase, “gathered to his people” (vayei’asef el amayv) is likened by Sforno to the bundle of life: “the bundle of souls who are part of the life after death” (Sforno, sefaria.org). Sforno continues, “there are all kinds of different spiritual levels among the righteous souls; not all attained the same level of righteousness while on earth, although all of them share the experience of enjoying eternal life” (Sforno, commentary on Genesis 25:8, sefaria.org).

The Bundle of Life

parashas Chayei Sarah 5782

“And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” – Genesis 23:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

It’s interesting to note, that Judaism is often regarded as a worldly religion, focusing on our earthly lives, while not placing much emphasis on the next life, otherwise known as Olam Haba – the World-to-Come. However, when we delve into Torah, looking below the surface of the plain meaning, we begin to see a different picture. Additionally, the teachings of Chazal (the Sages), can inform us as well, concerning a perspective that brings us into a fuller knowledge of Torah.

Torah itself may be compared to the ocean, perhaps, because its depths are unfathomable. Moreover, it is recorded in Torah, that the number of creatures in the ocean is uncountable; perhaps, this also applies to Torah itself, in regard to the many facets of Torah. It is said that there are seventy faces of Torah, connotating the teaching that Torah presents its mysteries in many ways.

The parashas begins with the death of Sarah, a seemingly disconnected beginning to a narrative entitled Chayei Sarah – the Life of Sarah. Yet, the first word of the parashas, vayechi, meaning “life,” according to R. Bachya implies “something that exists permanently,” thereby, it could be inferred that this hints towards the understanding that her soul would “take up permanent residence in the celestial regions” (R. Bachya, commentary on Genesis 23:1, sefaria.org).

In this respect, Chayei Sarah, the Life of Sarah may be understood as an implicit message or remez (hint), concerning Sarah’s continued existence in Olam Haba. Thus the title of the parashas points to the promise of an Afterlife for the righteous in the World-to-Come. We see this promise reiterated, in regard to Abraham, towards the end of the parashas: “And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8).  

This phrase, “gathered to his people” (vayei’asef el amaiv) is likened by Sforno to the bundle of life: “the bundle of souls who are part of the life after death, all of whom the righteous of the various generations who were like him in lifestyle” (Sforno, sefaria.org). Sforno continues, “there are all kinds of different spiritual levels among the righteous souls, not all attained the same level of righteousness while on earth although all of them share the experience of enjoying eternal life” (Sforno, commentary on Genesis 25:8, sefaria.org).

“Thy people shall all be righteous, they shall inherit the land forever.”

– Isaiah 60:21, JPS 1917 Tanach

Gateway to Gan Eden

“And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” – Genesis 23:1

Abraham purchases a burial plot for Sarah in the land of Canaan. This becomes the first piece of real estate that was purchased in the land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants. “Sarah died in Kiriatharba — the same is Hebron — in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 23:2). This purchase established a “foot in the door” of eternal promise for the descendants of Abraham.

“I will give to you, and to your seed after you the land where you are an outsider – the whole land of Canaan – for an everlasting possession, and I will be their G-d.” – Genesis 17:8

There is a midrash that refers to the Cave of Machpelah where both Sarah and Abraham were buried, as the gateway to the Garden of Eden. For the purposes of this essay, what may be inferred, is that those who were buried there, attained entrance into the Garden of Eden. This can be supported in regard to both Sarah and Abraham.

For Sarah, there is clue given that her soul continued to live, and where else, except for Gan Eden, where the righteous bask in the kavod (glory) of the L’RD? This clue is found in the first phrase of the parahshas, vayihyu chayei sarah, and this was the life of Sarah. The verb, vayihyu is spelled in an irregular manner, implying something that has a sense of permanence. R. Bachya explains, that this is a reference to the soul of Sarah, continuing to live on in Shamayim (Heaven).

As for Abraham, consider the following: “And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). This phrase, “gathered to his people” (vayei’asef el amayv) is likened by Sforno to the bundle of life. The “bundle of life,” that he refers to is found in reference to a prayer expressing the intent of Abigail, David’s future wife, for the eternal well-being of David: “yet the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the L’RD thy G’d” (1 Samuel 25:29).

Omer: Day 25 One Life to Live

Netzach shebbe Netzach: Endurance within Endurance:

(The attribute of netzach may also be rendered as “victory” or “eternity”).

The attribute of Netzach carries the weight of eternity on its shoulders, in like manner that Atlas, in the Greek myth, carried the world on his shoulders. In truth, according to a Biblical theme, G-d carries both of these burdens for all of mankind. Yet, we may be made privy to them in a manner that is not burdensome: our place in this world, and our time in eternity is sweetened by the victory of life over death, as mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. “He will swallow up death for ever; and the L-RD G-D will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The question is not often asked, what is the ultimate purpose of our lives? Nor, is the answer readily inferred from worldly knowledge; nor, deduced from general knowledge. Yet, G-d has placed eternity in our hearts, so that we might have a glimpse of eternity within us. Therefore, we are able to aspire towards that eternity, having sensed a time and place of continual existence in our heart. Otherwise, what reward will we have at the end of a life well-lived? If we endure the challenges of this life for the sake of monetary gain, pleasure, or posterity, then we are being misled by the false promises of this world.

Consider endurance of each and every day, living our lives for the sake of an eternal reward, knowing that this life is a test. “This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare yourself in the vestibule, that you mayest enter into the banquet hall” (Pirkei Avos 4:21). We are to prepare ourselves, through the refinement of our character, and living a morally upright life, according to G-d’s standard, for the sake of obtaining a good place in Olam Haba (the World to Come). This begins upon our admittance into the coronation banquet of the King, at the beginning of the Messianic Era. For the soul lives on for eternity.

poetry: Promise

1 Nissan 5781 Running, the tempest behind me, still present in my thoughts and dreams; yet, somewhere on the horizon, I can see in the distance, there is a place serene. Joyous within myself, outwardly smiling, my emotions never surface enough to be visible; perhaps, a trait from my ancestors upbringing, learned men of books, […]

Promise — Breathing Inspiration