Chayei Sarah: To Be Consoled By Hashem Himself


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    Chayei Sarah: To Be Consoled By Hashem Himself

    From the desk of Rabbi Nissim Lagziel, Mashpia in Oholei Torah: This week, we part from the first Jewish couple in history. At the beginning of parshas Chayei Sarah, we read of the untimely passing of Sarah Imenu. At the end of the parsha, we read of the early passing (by five years) of Avrohom Avinu • Full Article

    By Rabbi Nissim Lagziel


    After seven days of sitting shiva, the avel was collapsing from exhaustion. He could not answer those same questions again: How old was your father? Was he sick? How is your mother doing?

    In the final hours of the shiva, the town nudnik came in. He began with the familiar list of questions and to top it all of he asked, “How was it when the soul left the body?”

    “Sit here for another few minutes and you’ll see for yourself how it looks when a soul leaves the body…”


    This week, we part from the first Jewish couple in history. At the beginning of parshas Chayei Sarah, we read of the untimely passing of Sarah Imenu. At the end of the parsha, we read of the early passing (by five years) of Avrohom Avinu. The interesting thing is that after Avrohom’s passing, the verse says (25:11), “And it was after the death of Avrohom and G-d blessed Yitzchok his son.” Rashi quotes the Gemara in Sota (14a) that G-d came to comfort Yitzchok with nichum aveilim. This is the first time in the Torah that we read of the mitzva of nichum aveilim. And it is one of the only mitzvos that we read about G-d keeping before the Jewish people.

    The Medrash (Shemos Raba 30, 9) says on the verse (Tehillim 147:19), “He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and laws to Yisrael,” that “G-d’s attributes are unlike man’s. A human being tells others what to do and doesn’t do anything! (Sound familiar?) G-d isn’t like that. What He does, He tells us to do.

    Thus, every mitzva, wearing tzitzis or putting on tefillin, keeping Shabbos, kashrus, tahara, all are first done by G-d Himself. Only then, does he command us to do them. But usually we don’t read and hear about it, certainly not explicitly in the Torah, while here, in connection with consoling the bereaved, the Torah tells us that the first who went to “bless” and console the bereaved was G-d Himself!

    Why here and now? Why didn’t G-d come to console anyone earlier? Why not with the passing of Adam, Mesushelach, Noach or Shem? And what was the consolation? And what lesson is there for us, mainly in connection with bringing the true and complete Geula?

    In sifrei Chassidus (Tiferes Shlomo) there is an interesting explanation. Our Sages say that the first three blessings in Shemoneh Esrei correspond to the three Avos. The second blessing, of resurrection of the dead, corresponds to Yitzchok. We find in the Medrash (Pirkei d’Rabi Eliezer chapter 31) that at the Akeida (in last week’s parsha), when Avrohom’s knife came close to Yitzchok’s neck, Yitzchok’s soul left him. When his soul came back, Yitzchok said the blessing of “mechayeh ha’meisim” (resurrects the dead) because he was the first one to experience it.

    However, there is another explanation both unique and interesting about the connection between Yitzchok and the blessing of resurrection. Yitzchok was bound with every fiber of his soul to his father Avrohom. After Avrohom’s passing, Yitzchok underwent what we would call a crisis. He refused to be consoled. He could not make peace with the loss of his father until … G-d Himself had to intervene! G-d came to console Yitzchok and the consolation was a blessing (“and G-d blessed Yitzchok”). G-d revealed to Yitzchok the secret of resurrection, the secret we all await. He told Yitzchok straight out, “Don’t worry. Father is coming back! You will see him again.” In that moment of consolation, Yitzchok said, “Boruch … mechayeh ha’meisim.”


    The Rebbe finds in the mitzva of nichum aveilim, a direct connection to our avoda in bringing the Geula. In a letter of consolation, the Rebbe explains that this mitzva alludes to the entire order of the avoda of a Jew in this world and the wording alludes to the connection with the Geula.

    Chassidus explains that when fulfilling any mitzva there are four stages and these four stages are manifestly expressed in the mitzva of consoling the bereaved. First, before doing any mitzva, a Jew needs G-dly strength to enable him to do the mitzva. This is the initial G-dly involvement which comes to help a Jew in his avoda. In the second stage, a Jew needs to roll up his sleeves and… take action! To do the mitzva himself and use all his talents and abilities to proceed higher and higher in avodas Hashem. After using all his own abilities, he comes to the end of human ability and G-d gives him, in the third stage, supernal abilities that he would never achieve on his own. G-d gives him, in a way of “measure for measure” the spiritual levels that he tries to reach.

    For example, if a person worked on his attribute of love and achieved the limits of what he could in that regard, G-d will then endow him with a feeling of divine love which he would never attain on his own. In the end, in the fourth and final stage, G-d gives a person a reward, a G-dly revelation that is beyond what he really deserves, an incomparably greater revelation than the third stage which was limited (“measure for measure”) and based on what he achieved. In the fourth stage, G-d gives without any measure as only G-d can do!

    We find these four stages in the mitzva of consoling the bereaved as it connects to the Geula. First of all, as we said at the beginning, this is one of the only mitzvos that G-d did even before He gave it to us. The consoling that G-d does with Yitzchok gives each of us the ability and motivation to do this now, because if G-d finds the time and energy to console mourners, surely each of us can do so!

    The second stage is when each one fulfills the mitzva. We say to the mourner: “We will do all we can to fill the void. We will try to help and support you.” But in the end, we are aware of the fact that we are limited, we are mere mortals and we do not have the ability to truly comfort. We don’t have the ability to take away the sorrow and pain, the feeling of loss which is why, before we part from the mourner, we tell him that really only “HaMakom will console you among the other mourners of Tziyon and Yerushalayim.” Like Yitzchok did, so too, every mourner will receive true consolation only in the third stage, at the building of the Beis HaMikdash and the resurrection of the dead which will come from Above, from the omnipotent Creator, giving life to both the living and the dead.

    The wording of the consolation that we use today alludes to the third stage in which G-d will do what we, today, cannot do. But, along with this, comes the fourth and last stage, the stage that is without measure or limits. G-d’s consolation won’t only be a ‘renewal of what was,’ turning the clock back and bringing those people and others from the distant past back to this world. G-d’s consolation will be double, a consolation beyond what we expect. G-d will not only build the old Mikdash, but rather “greater will be the honor of this latter House than the first,” the eternal, third House, a House built by G-d and not by man. So too with the resurrection, G-d will not simply bring the dead to life with the same sort of life as before but with a new sort of life, eternal life, life on another plane which we have never imagined.


    We will end with a story about the proper hiskashrus between a Chassid and his Rebbe that is connected with the mitzva of nichum aveilim. The Amshinover Rebbe, Rabbi Shimon Sholom Kalish, passed away in New York on 19 Menachem Av 5714. The Rebbe went to console his son, Rabbi Yerachmiel Kalish. The Rebbe asked about the details of the funeral which would take place in Eretz Yisrael (because the Admor had been buried in New York on condition that he would later be taken to Eretz Yisrael).

    The plan was that the new Amshinover Rebbe would go to Eretz Yisrael by ship. Upon arriving there, his father’s coffin would be flown there and he would be buried in Teveria.

    The Rebbe asked one of the Amshinover Chassidim whether he would fly to accompany the coffin and the person said he was a kohen. The Rebbe said, “So?” The man said that doing so was no simple matter.

    The Rebbe said, “How can a Chassid allow his Rebbe to be alone? A Chassid, first and foremost, goes with his Rebbe and afterward, when he returns to his place, if a question arises he will ask a rav, and if the rav will tell him there was a concern in the matter he will ask how to rectify it.”

    The message to us is clear. A Chabad Chassid remains attached to the Rebbe MH”M in every circumstance.

    Good Shabbos!


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    Chayei Sarah: To Be Consoled By Hashem Himself