Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach | 5770
Ein Ayah: Displaying the Good in Everything
(based on Berachot, 3:3)
Gemara: Whoever sees a dead person [being taken to burial] and does not escort him violates: “One who scoffs at a poor person blasphemes his Maker” (Mishlei 17:5). And if he does escort him, what is his reward? About him the pasuk (ibid. 19:17) says: “One who has compassion for the poor is like one who lends to Hashem” [the words for escorting and lending have the same letters] and, “One who has compassion toward the poor shows respect to Him” (ibid. 14:31).
Ein Ayah: A funeral procession teaches that the living relate to the situation of death and that the actions of the living have an impact on the situation of the dead. This will encourage one to show respect to Hashem in the actions of life, which are his to do throughout his life, as he sees that they are not actions that blow away like smoke. Rather, they take on a different form when death comes, while they continue to exist and give fruit after death.
One who does not escort the dead, even if he admits that the soul is eternal and that there will be a resurrection of the dead, is lacking in this regard. If he does not take note of the fact that all actions and ways of life have a connection even after death and that according to the way he went through life he will discover his true value at that time, then he has not fulfilled his goal in showing respect to Hashem. After all, Hashem’s main purpose [in commanding to act as He does] is that His creations should reach shleimut (completeness).
A funeral procession also indicates that the journey upon which the deceased embarks is to a higher level than the existence in the material world. That is why the pasuk attributed to the one who escorts the deceased is: “One who has compassion for the poor is like one who lends to Hashem.” Just as a lender trusts the borrower’s reliability to pay him back, even though his eyes no longer see his money, so too one believes, even though he sees his life waning away, that there is an important value to death, as he is reliant on Hashem’s justice. The believer knows that Hashem did not create him for naught and did not blow the spirit of life into him just to make him a player in a game of occurrences in a material world. Rather, he was created to reach a lofty goal, which he will realize most fully in the end of days.
There is another point in this matter. The feelings of sadness that accompany death are also for the good, in order to force a person’s heart and difficult nature into submission so that it will be able to lead him through the path of life. This has similarities to the phenomenon whereby poverty creates the attribute of mercy in the spirit of the one who is charitable. The creation of the attribute is an eternal acquisition of intrinsic good in the heart of the person.
One who uses the advantages that come from things that appear to be bad is one who shows respect to Hashem by taking the good that is hidden in that thing from the potential to the actual, as Hashem intended him to do. So too, one who escorts the deceased and succeeds in inculcating in himself the imprint of “the living will place upon his heart” (Kohelet 7:2) and straightens his path shows respect to Hashem. This is similar to one who has compassion toward the poor, thus displaying the good (i.e., compassion) that could come from anything, including something that appears bad (i.e., poverty).
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Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in memory of
This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of