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March 5, 2015 / 14 Adar , 5775
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Saying Goodbye To Yaakov Avinu


Doesn’t it make you sad?

Every year, when we finish Sefer Bereishis, I feel like crying. There is nothing like being in the presence of our Fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and our Mothers Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.

You feel safe. You are “at home.” You are protected by them and their merit.

It is well known, after all, that we exist on “zechus avos,” the merit of our fathers. Don’t we thank God at least three times a day for being the “Shield of Abraham”? He protected Abraham, and He is protecting the children of Abraham from countless evils and dangers.

Am Yisrael is a mishpacha; it’s not a business or political entity. Am Yisrael doesn’t derive its reality from a tax ID or social security number, but rather from mothers and fathers who love us and who bequeath to us a unique family tradition of service to God. We are supposed to imitate God in our actions, and we learned in the home of our avos and imahos how to do it, because they did it.

Anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a parent knows a part of you is wrenched away. The life of a loved one is never long enough. When we say goodbye to our father or mother for the last time there will be tears and a terrible feeling of emptiness.

This week we say goodbye to Yaakov Avinu.

When Am Yisrael went into exile, we passed Mama Rachel’s tomb in Beis Lechem. She was crying for us and we were crying for her. Those tears sustained us and gave us hope, because we know that the Gate of Tears is never closed (Berachos 32b).

“Thus said Hashem: a voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping, Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone” (Jeremiah 31:14).

Politicians do not weep for us. Civil servants do not weep for us.

Who weeps for us? Mamas and tattas weep for us.

We are a nation with a heart, with feelings. Do we not place the tefillin first next to our heart? That’s where everything begins.

Rachamana liba boay” – God desires the heart (Rashi on Sanhedrin 106b).

Soon after Jacob died, the Torah tells us that “Joseph died and all his brothers and that entire generation” (Exodus 1:6).

And then? “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph . So they appointed taskmasters in order to afflict [the Children of Israel]” (Exodus 1:11).

As soon as the mamas and tattas are gone, the troubles begin and Exile commences. Our Patriarchs and Matriarchs protected us, and now they are gone.

We can relate to this today very easily if we think of the gedolim who have left us in the past few years. What kind of a world is it without them? Do you know how they protected us? There are actually a few people still alive, but not many, who knew the Chofetz Chaim. There are still many who remember Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky.

Rav Avraham Pam passed away a few weeks before 9/11. People at the time said that if he had lived another few weeks, the events of 9/11 could never have occurred, because his kedushah protected us.

Why do we say “magen Avraham” at least three times a day? Because God was a shield to Abraham and that protection is actively saving Abraham’s children to this very day.

“I will say of God, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; I will trust in Him . With His pinion He will cover you, and beneath His wings you will be protected” (Psalm 91).

My wife and I had the privilege of meeting Rav Pam about a year before he left this world. Our friend Reb Tsemach Glenn brought us to him a few days after the publication of my book From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul. We were with him for about half an hour, and it felt literally like being in the presence of an angel.

When we left his home, our hearts were filled with simcha, hope, and a feeling of elevation. Within a few hours, things started to happen which were so unusual that they could only have been the result of his blessing.

Rav Pam became like a father to us, even though we had never met him before and spent a relatively short time with him. His love was not abstract. We felt that he cared for us like his own children, that in fact we became his own children – in thirty minutes! It was clear he was asking God to bless us, and indeed we quickly saw the result of his brachos. He was actively working for our welfare, and he hardly knew us.

Why were we important to him? Because we were his mishpacha.

And now we say goodbye to Yaakov Avinu, the father of us all.

Goodbye, dear father, whose brachos are always with us. We will try to live up to the standards you set for us. Yehuda said about Yaakov and Binyamin (Bereishis 44:30): “v’nafsho keshura l’nafsho” – his soul is bound up with his soul. Even after 3,500 years, the soul of Yaakov Avinu is bound up with our souls and our souls are bound up with his.

Let us weep at this parting. Let us remember our avos and imahos with tears of gratitude and love. They lived for us and now let us live for them. With these tears, our prayers will ascend to the heavens and awaken the heavenly mercy.

As it is with these tears, so it is with tears for Yerushalayim. It is said about Jerusalem, “Whoever mourns over Jerusalem is deserving to witness her joy” (Taanis 30b).

Soon we will see the rebuilt Yerushalayim.

Similarly, it is said, “Our father Jacob did not die” (Rashi on Bereishis 49:33; Taanis 5b).

“Thus said Hashem [to Mama Rachel]: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment – the word of Hashem- and they will return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future – the word of Hashem – and your children will return to their border” (Jeremiah 31:14).

“Those who sow in tears will reap in glad song” (Psalm 126).

It seems quite clear we will see it soon in our days, and then all our tears will become tears of joy and everlasting gladness.

About the Author: Roy Neuberger's latest book, “2020 Vision” (Feldheim) is available in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Russian, and Georgian. An e-edition is available at www.feldheim.com. Roy is also the author of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul” (available in English, Hebrew and Russian, and Georgian) and “Worldstorm.” Roy and Leah Neuberger speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at roy@tosinai.com or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.


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