"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The death of the righteous

FNQ – special

I was privileged last night to participate in the funeral of Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu zt'l. Rabbi Eliahu served as one of the primary poskim and leaders in both spiritual and mundane matters for a large segment of the religious community in Israel. Although I was unable to hear any of the eulogies due to the throngs of people, just to be there and take part in the national mourning of this great loss was meaningful. I would like to share a few thoughts on the significance of losing a great tzadik and leader.

The death of a tzadik always creates a vacuum. Rabbinic guidance is similar to a food chain. The people seek guidance from their local Rabbi who in turn seeks guidance from his Rabbi and so on and so on until eventually, the chain reaches its conclusion with the greatest Rabbi of the generation. For many, Rabbi Eliahu was the last stop on their spiritual chain of command. When the big fish is gone, the entire ecosystem suffers.

When people die, their loss is felt in two stages. There is the pain of the immediate loss and there is the pain you feel when at a later time you seek the guidance of the deceased and they are not there. This is the pain of the sudden and striking realization of what this person meant to you and how profoundly lost you are without them. The Talmud (Brachot 43a ) records a story that took place when the great sage Rav passed away. His students, upon returning from his funeral, had a halachic inquiry to which they did not know the answer. When they realized that their teacher could not rule for them they tore their garments a second time as they became aware of the full extent and depth of what they had lost. Often the greater the loss, this second stage of mourning is even more powerful and prolonged.

When the the big fish dies the chain is temporarily out of whack; however, nature has an incredible way of fixing itself and restoring order. In spirituality, the same is true. An individual tzadik is irreplaceable in that no one can provide the guidance and leadership that he could. Nevertheless, our tradition demands that the job of serving as the top of the chain be filled by someone else. Each generation is given the leaders it needs and no generation is left to grope in the dark without the guidance and direction of a righteous and scholarly leader. The march has and and will always continue even though the guides often change. The new guides must never be compared to the old ones since each has been hand chosen by G-d to serve in their time. May we be blessed with great leaders and may we continue to use the light of those who have left us, to find our way on the dark and winding path towards redemption.

What do you think?

Binyamin – always looking for a good question

No comments:

Post a Comment