Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah | 5768
The View From Above - Excerpts from a Eulogy for Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook
(5750 / 1990) - From Dabar L’dor pp. 108-113 - From the works of Rav Yisraeli zt”l
Chazal tell us that when we say a Torah thought in the name of a deceased scholar, his lips “move in the grave” (Yevamot 97a). That is the purpose of memorial days. The gemara (Berachot 64a) also says that “the righteous do not have rest - not in this world and not in the one to come, as it says: ‘They will go from strength to strength’ (Tehillim 84:8).” There is a goal to come together with the tzaddik’s memory, to “make his lips move,” to hear what he would have said in order to know how to direct ourselves.
“Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said: ‘I have seen “men of elevation” (bnei aliyah)and they are few. If there are 1,000, my son and I are among them. If there are 100, my son and I are among them. If there are two, they are my son and I’” (Sukka 45b). These appear to be words of conceit. Only he and his son are men of an elevated level!? The truth is that this statement delineates the responsibility that rests upon such great people to not keep their Torah locked up for themselves but to let the public know that which they see and sense. “Men of elevation” refers to those who see things from a higher place. When a person sees an expanse, he sees something limited. . When one goes higher, his field of vision expands until he can see that which others cannot. Others may think that he is imagining something, but from his better vantage point and with the power of vision he is granted, he actually sees that which others cannot. It is his responsibility to share this with others.
When the Rambam (introduction to Moreh Nevuchim) describes prophecy, he employs a parable of one who walks in the dark of night, where one cannot discern between a person and a pole. Suddenly there is a flash of lightening and, for a moment, everything becomes light and he can see objects clearly. In general, people go through life without knowing what and how, and they do not see the causal development of things. However, if Hashem grants one prophecy, he gets flashes. There are lesser prophets and greater ones, with the greatest being Moshe, for whom the flashes were so consistent that it was almost as if the night was permanently light. In a parallel manner, this is the idea of men of elevation, of the unique in a generation, like Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, whether there be a hundred or two. We may be a small minority and many may scoff at us, claiming that we hallucinate rather than see. The job of bnei aliyah [i.e., our mentors, such as Rav Tzvi Yehuda]though is to see matters clearly and share them with others.
“The glorious is Israel, on your high places is a chalal (corpse)” (Shmuel II, 1:19). The word chalal has a double meaning. It refers to a slain person, in this case, King Shaul, whom David was eulogizing. However, it also means a vacuum, an area that remains empty. No one could take his place. In such a case, one has to come together with the memory of the great person who left a void and try to hear that which he would have said. Today when we gather to remember Rav Tzvi Yehuda z.t.l., we feel the void. While there is a heavenly decree that after a year the deceased is forgotten from the heart (Pesachim 54b), when there is a void, the void is more discernable as time goes on. Woe unto us that we are missing the personality who would have told us what we need to know today.
[Rav Yisraeli went on to describe the situation. On one hand, confused Israeli leaders considered giving away precious pieces of land, which they figured they were entitled to do. On the other hand, he pointed at the miracle of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the aliyah of the Jews who were almost lost to us. He urged people to hold on to the belief in Hashem, which is so basic to the Jewish soul, a theme which was indicative Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s message.]
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