web analytics
July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Lessons Of Holiness Even In Death

Yahrzeit Candle

Yahrzeit Candle
Photo Credit: Flash 90

From a literal perspective, the names of portions are nothing more than the first major word of the part of the Torah that is read during the week. It can, however, be argued that deep meaning actually lies within the names themselves.

The portion we read this week, Kedoshim, means “holiness.” It follows the portion Acharei Mot, which means “after death.” The chronological order of these portions teaches an important lesson.

What is the challenge that presents itself after death? In my early years in the rabbinate, I always felt my challenge as a spiritual leader was to sit with bereaved families and help them undo the pain they were feeling. Death is a kind of darkness, a deep darkness. My role, I thought, was to remove that darkness.

But after my mother died, I stood before my congregation and apologized. Through that painful experience I came to realize that the goal of removal is simply unrealistic. The goal is rather to find a way to cope with the suffering that comes with termination. I compared it to the following: Imagine walking into a dark room for the first time. Not knowing one’s way or one’s place, one trips over the furniture, unaware of which way to turn. However, after days and weeks and months and years, when one walks into that very same dark room, though the darkness still exists, with time we learn how to negotiate the furniture and we can make our way.

The truth is that after suffering a great loss one is actually blessed if one constantly feels the darkness of the pain of termination. Such an emotion is reflective of the power of the relationship between the bereaved and the deceased. If there is no sense of darkness, it could mean that that sense of connection has been blurred, even lost. The challenge, however, as one continues to feel the darkness, is learning how to cope or, to go back to my analogy, learning where the furniture is while feeling the darkness.

The last time I was at my mother’s grave, my dear sister Suri, a woman of profound spirituality, turned to me and said, “Mommy is far away.” I keep thinking of that comment. My mother died on Yom Kippur 1983. It is certainly a long time ago. In a certain sense my sister was right – with every year the soul seems to move further and further away.

While not denying that reality, we are reminded this week that there can always be kedoshim – a sense of continuum that is expressed through holiness. How so? The challenge of death is to keep the person who has died alive in spirit. Indeed the Talmud says there are some people who are actually living yet are not really alive; they’re only going through the motions. On the flip side, there are others who, though physically dead, continue to live through the teachings they left behind and through those they touched in life.

In Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s Halachic Man, his introductory page includes the Talmudic statement that in a moment of great personal conflict, the biblical Joseph looked up and saw in the window the image of his father, Jacob. It was Rav Soloveitchik’s way of saying that his writing and teachings continue to be powerfully influenced by his late father, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik.

I bless you and ask you to bless me that we always remember those who have passed on, like walking through the darkened room full of furniture. And I pray that we always feel those who are closest tapping us on the shoulder, helping us along the complex path of life, guiding us even after death to learn from their teachings and live lives of holiness.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founding president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. His memoir of the Soviet Jewry movement, “Open Up the Iron Door,” was recently published by Toby Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

5 Responses to “The Lessons Of Holiness Even In Death”

  1. Meaningful message from Rabbi Avi Weiss, especially since it follows our very recent recitation of the Yizkor service.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Haneen Zoabi (L) and Basel Ghattas (R), Arab members of Israel's parliament, both participated in flotillas attempting to break Israel's legal naval blockade of the Gaza strip.
Who Is Damaging Relations Between Arabs and Jews?
Latest Judaism Stories
17th_of_Tammuz_(medium)_(english)

17th of Tammuz: Beginning 3 weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

With Ruth, The Torah seems to be stating that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of parents

Neihaus-070315

Without a foundation, one cannot hope to build a structure.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Why do we have a parsha in Sefer Shemos named after Yisro who was not only a former idolater, but actually served as a priest for Avodah Zarah!

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

This Land Is ‘My’ Land
‘[If The Vow Was Imposed] In The Seventh Year…’
(Nedarim 42b)

The Shulchan Aruch in the very first siman states that one should rise in the morning like a lion, implying that simply rising form bed requires strength of a lion, in line with the Midrash.

Attempts to interpret the message of Hashem in the absence of divine prophecy ultimately may twist that message in unintended ways that can lead to calamitous events.

Suddenly, the pilot’s voice could be heard. He explained that this was a special day for those passengers on board who lived in Israel.

If the sick person is thrust into a situation where he is compelled to face his sickness head on, we who are not yet sick can encourage him by facing it with him.

All agree that Jews ARE different. How? Why? The Bible’s answer is surprising and profound.

What’s the nation of Israel’s purpose in the world? How we can bring God’s blessings into the world?

“Is there a difference between rescuing and other services?” asked Ploni.

To my dismay, I’ve seen that shidduch candidates with money become ALL desirable traits for marriage

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

With Ruth, The Torah seems to be stating that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of parents

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Halacha isn’t random; it’s a mechanism guiding individuals and society to a higher ethical plateau.

Essential principle of arguments for Heaven’s sake is recognizing no 1 person has monopoly on truth

It becomes clear that the problem the Jewish people faced wasn’t temporary but endemic to its core

Mitzvot, even restrictive laws, often teach self-discipline which is a venue to freedom.

Torah learning is valueless unless it enhances personal morality, fostering closer connection to God

The census focused on the individual, proving each is created as irreplaceable, unique images of God

Torah hints to a divided Jerusalem that will become a city without walls forever united

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-lessons-of-holiness-even-in-death/2014/04/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: