Friday, July 07, 2006

Death of a Tzaddik

This table talk is dedicated to the memory of Yehudis bas Alexander Ziskin. To dedicate a future table talk, please send an email.

- 1-

A man and woman are fighting. They are yelling. They are not talking to each other. They are thinking about divorce, but neither really wants a divorce, they just don’t know how to work things out.

A man named Aaron comes along and says to the man, “Are you happy about leaving your wife or unhappy?

The man replies, “Well, I’m unhappy, but there’s no way we can stay together.

“If your wife wanted to make up, would you want to?”

The man agrees.

Then Aaron goes to the woman and says the same thing: “Are you happy about your husband leaving or unhappy?”

She replies, “Well, I’m miserable.”

“If you husband wanted to make up, would you want to?”

“Well, yes, but he’ll never want to. He said he’s leaving me. So Aaron continues: “Well, I already spoke to him, and he says he really wants to make up.”


“Yes, in fact, he said he feels bad about everything that happened.”


Then Aaron returns to the man (before the woman gets there) and reports, “Well, I spoke to your wife and she said she feels very bad about what happened and wants to make up.”

Pretty soon, the two are back together. They just needed someone to help them get past the wounded feelings and egos.

- 2 -

Moses’s brother Aaron was such a peacemaker. Do you think he was liked or disliked among the Israelites?

When he died, “they wept for Aaron thirty days, the entire House of Israel” (Numbers 20:29).

However, when Moses’s sister Miriam dies, the Torah is succinct:“Miriam died there and she was buried there.”

The rabbis of old comment that, although Miriam was not a great peacemaker, she was a great, righteous woman and the Jewish people did not mourn her sufficiently.

The customary mourning period for a parent is 1 year, for any other relative 1 month, and for any righteous person 1 month. Mourning someone who has died pays them and their legacy proper respect. Not to do so is as if to say, “Her legacy is unimportant to me” and brings the karmic consequence of the loss of that legacy.

Thus, as a consequence of our failure to mourn Miriam appropriately, the next verse states: “There was no water for the assembly,” for Miriam’s great merit had brought the water. When we fail to appreciate the legacy, the legacy is removed.

“To everything there is a season...a time to rend and a time to mend.”

When it is your time to rend, don’t run away because it’s uncomfortable. Mourning is an affirmation of the life and legacy of your loved one (and we ourselves - and our ability to continue the good that that person created - are the most important legacy of all).

Shabbat Shalom


michele said...

While the first example is very sweet, it is naive at best. Once the couple is back together, if no healing has been done with what caused the actual feelings of unhappiness in the first place, then getting them back together is actually cruel. It is a matter of doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
First of all, the friend had to tell them each that the other wanted to make amends, rather than convincing them to do it themselves. So the ego really hasn't been taken out of it. Secondly, this is not where it ends but where it begins -- either they must make a commitment to healing what was wrong with the relationship in the first place or else getting them back together so that they can continue in their misery together is nothing short of cruel. I think that the oversimplification of relationships is almost as bad as ignoring them altogether. If people expect such an easy result and then are thwarted in their attempt, it is worse than if they had not attempted at all.

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

Dear Michele,

Thank you for your comment. Unhesitatingly, I agree. The simplistic example is typical of Midrash, that employs simplistic examples in order to emphasize a single point. In this case, I believe it is meant to show how Aaron would expend much effort at "shuttle diplomacy" in order to help people end feuds. Ending a feud doesn't solve the underlying problems, but (as you said) it's a beginning.

The point here is that Aaron made enormous efforts to help people with their ahavah, and they loved him for it.