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.
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).