DO IT FOR MOM AND DAD*

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

*IN MEMORY OF MY FATHER MOSHE DOVID BEN AVROHOM ZEV Z"L PRICE. DIED 16 ADAR 5742. AND MY MOTHER CHAYAH LEAH BAS R' DOVID Z"L PRICE. DIED 1 ELUL 5754.

Shlomo Hamelech in his great wisdom, writes (Koheles 5:14) "As he had come from his mother's womb, naked will he return, as he had come." He is stressing the fact that a person can't take anything in this world with him when he dies and goes to the Next World, except Torah and Mitzvos. This is beautifully illustrated in the Midrash Rabboh on the possuk. It brings a parable of a fox who saw grapes in a vineyard enclosed by a fence. The fox circled around the fence hoping to find an entrance, but there was none. Finally the fox spotted a small crack in the fence, but he was too big to fit through the tiny hole. The fox came up with an idea. He would fast until he was thin enough to fit through the crack. After three days of fasting, the fox was thin enough to fit through. Once on the other side, the hungry fox ate all the grapes he could, but when he tried to exit via the same crack he discovered that he was again too big and could not fit through the hole. The fox was forced to fast another three days until he’d be able to come out through the hole. Once he left, he turned to the vineyard and said,
"OH VINEYARD, OH VINEYARD, HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE; BUT WHAT GOOD ARE YOU - THE WAY I CAME IN (HUNGRY) IS THE WAY I CAME OUT".
The Midrash concludes
"SO TOO IS THIS WORLD THE WAY WE COME IN IS THE WAY WE COME OUT. WE CAN'T TAKE ANYTHING WITH US ONLY TORAH AND MITZVOS".

The Midrash makes another interesting observation, when a child is born he has clenched fists, as if to say I will conquer the whole world; but when he dies, his hands are outstretched, as if to say, I have taken nothing with me. This point is stressed in Pirkei Avos (6:9) "nothing escorts the deceased into the grave except Torah and Mitzvos". (My brother told me about a woman, [I think it was Mayer Nochlin's Mother,] who requested to have put in her grave all of the receipts that she got from Yeshivas.)

Hopefully we realize this; but what if we don't? Or what if we didn't learn even when we had the chance, and then we get to shomayim (heaven)? What do we do then? Chazal teach us that there is still hope. The Mishnah in Sanhedrin lists the kings who lost their share in Olam Habo. The Gemoro (104a) questions, why doesn’t the name of King Achaz (a tremendous rosho) appear on the list. The Gemoro replies that Achaz had a son who was a tremendous tzaddik, King Chizkiyahu. In this case the father merits from the son’s behavior, ("B’ro m’zakeh abba"). If a parent leaves a son or daughter in this world, who are doing Mitzvos, those Mitzvos are also accredited to the parents. help the parent or Rebbi go higher in Olam Haboh. The reason is, that since the parent brought the child to this world, the parent is partially responsible for these mitzvos, and therefore shares in the reward. Likewise if a Rebbi leaves a talmid in this world, he also shares in the Mitzvos that this talmid does, thus continuing to grow, long after he passed away.

Let's take an interesting scenario in HEAVEN. A man is moving up, and he wants to know why? They tell him, "Your son just said Kaddish; your daughter gave charity or did a Mitzvah; your talmid learned Mishnayos; your son said Omen or Bircas Kohanim." Another man says that his son is also a Kohen, and why isn't he going higher? They tell him that they are very sorry, but your son is sleeping, he doesn't realize how much you could gain. Even if the parents are religious, they can use as much as they can get.

Many Rabbis have experienced the following scenario. A person who is saying Kaddish in honor of deceased relative will approach him and ask why is he saying Kaddish altogether? He always assumed that Kaddish was a prayer asking Hashem to remember the deceased, but now he just had a chance to study the translation of Kaddish, and the deceased relative is not referred to in the slightest. All Kaddish refers to is Hashem’s greatness and glory, what does this do for his family member? [I know of a story where a person approached a Rav and asked him to translate Kaddish. After the explanation, the person got up to leave saying, "I refuse say this prayer. It has nothing to do with my deceased relative. It is just praises for Hashem. There is no reason for me to say it." Y.L.] The truth is that that is precisely what Kaddish is. It is an opportunity for the son to ask the congregation to sanctify Hashem's Name. When he says Yisgadel v’yiskadesh sh’meh rabboh..., "May the Great Name (of Hashem) be magnified and glorified...," he is asking the congregation to sanctify Hashem's name. When they consequently respond "Y’hei sh’meh rabboh m’vorach" "May The Great Name be blessed'," this is a Kiddush Hahem, a sanctification of Hashem's Name. The Kiddush Hashem initiated by the one who said the Kaddish, goes to the credit of the one upon whom the Kaddish is being said. (See 'Gesher Hachayim" the Chapter on Kaddish).

With these concepts we can understand a very perplexing statement of Chazal (Brachos 18); "The WICKED are considered DEAD even when they are ALIVE, The RIGHTEOUS are considered ALIVE even when they are DEAD." What is the simple understanding of these words? The "Mesilat Yeshorim" (chp 1) says that the purpose of Man is to get to the Next World, where he will experience the true and only pleasure of basking in the glory of Hashem, ("Lai’hanos m’ziv Schinaso"). The way to get there is by doing Torah and Mitzvos in This World. These are the tickets to get to the Next World. So in essence, "Man was not created for his status in This World, only for his status in the Next World. The status in This World is the means (determining factor) for the status in the Next World, which is the ultimate goal." As it says in Pirkei Avos (4:2), "Prepare yourself in the hallway in order to enter into the palace."

Unfortunately the problem is that we tend to forget this. We concentrate more on our temporary existence here than our permanent existence there. Rav Shalom Shwadron shlit"a compares this to a person who is about to make aliyah to Eretz Yisroel, having to make a brief stopover in France on the way. Instead of studying Hebrew, the language he will need for the rest of his life, he bothers to study French. How foolish is this man?! Well, concludes Rav Shalom, if we worry more about this world, than the next world, we are no different than this fool.

(Preparing for the "REAL WORLD" is explained very well in an article by Reb Chaim Friedman z"l (Maggid shiur in Etz Chaim Yeshiva in London for many years, father of Rav Leib Friedman from Telz Stone. The full text of the article can be found at the end of this sicha). It is called "Planning the Future" and was reprinted in the Neveh Newsletter.)

Now we can understand the concept of remaining alive even after departing from this world. A Tzaddik continues to accomplish this goal of collecting Torah and Mitzvos, and climbing higher in Gan Eden, even after his passing away. How? The Tzaddik gains from the mitzvos that the talmidim continue to do in this world long after the Tzaddik passed away. Thus the tzaddik is in essence still "ALIVE" on this world doing Torah and Mitzvos, in the sense that he is still getting more credit in the Next World, which was the ultimate goal of being alive. On the other hand the Rosho, who even when he is alive is not working on getting the credit of Torah and Mitzvos, is considered "DEAD" in the sense that he is not doing his ultimate goal just like when a person is dead.

However, it is not always easy to explain this to our Parents. They keep asking us, "How are you going to make a living?" We have to remember that they did not hear all the Sichot about Torah and Olom Habo that we did. They may not know that Rav Yisroel Salanter and the Chofetz Chaim use to say, "Making a living, what about making a Dying?" (Why do you only worry about preparing for your life Here, what preparation do you have when you die when it really counts?) And even if they did hear these concepts, they may not have incorporated it as part of their way of living. Nevertheless, we must be careful how we speak to them. We must realize that they really love us and mean for our benefit, based on the priorities that they were brought up with, and the influences of the Society that they grew up in. So what can we say to our parents?
We can compare this in some respect to a child who needs a polio injection. While the nurse is standing there with the needle, the child is crying profusely, begging for mercy. Unfortunately, at his age there is no way that we can even attempt to explain to him how this pain is for his benefit. Would any merciful parent tell the nurse not to give him the injection and spare the child from the pain?! The good parents realize, that they must do it for the benefit of the child, even if the child does not understand. So the first rule is, YOU CAN'T LET YOUR EMOTIONS OVERRULE YOUR LOGIC. Even if our parents do not understand, we know that ultimately this is for their benefit, and even if we can't explain it to them we can't let our emotions overrule our logic.

If the parents agree that we should learn Torah, but we don't want to, then we are at fault. But what if they don't want to let us learn? If we argue they say that we owe it to them to listen to them, because they gave us so much. "Where is your appreciation?" they ask. Sometimes we buckle under the pressure and say how can I hurt them, they gave me so much? It may be hard but we have to compare it to a mother who G-d forbid went temporarily insane and asked her son for a knife so she could kill herself. Of course the son refuses at first, but what if the mother says you owe it to me after all I did for you?! Would any son in his right mind comply with her request?! Any normal person understands that the mother's claim doesn't apply here. The mother is temporarily insane and doesn't realize that she is killing herself, but the son who views the situation properly owes it to her not to give her the knife. Similarly in the spiritual world, the parent may not understand that removing a child from Torah study is causing yourself and the child Spiritual suicide, but the child knows, so he owes it to the parents not to do it. (It is important to mention that the analogy is not a fair one, since spiritual death is worse than physical death. Chazal say "A person who causes someone to transgress is worse than if he killed him. Physical death removes a person from only This World, whereas spiritual death removes him even from the Next".)

Sometimes we think what use is there in fighting? If we don't listen, our parents will keep nagging us until we do, and I can't take it. We have to put this problem in its proper perspective. Hopefully, it won't be for so long, maybe a few years, until you get married and have children, and give them some nachas (pleasure). But at worst the agony will last throughout your entire life - 120 years. Well, if you give in now and stop your learning then the nagging you will get in the Next World will be a lot longer and a lot worse. Over there in the Olam Ha’emes, the world where everyone sees the truth, your parents will know how much they lost and could have gained by letting you continue learning. Then they will nag you for eternity, "Why did you listen to us?" and when you tell them that they begged, nagged, and pleaded with you to listen to them, they will tell you, "Well you knew what Torah is, we were foolish we did not know what it is, you should not have listened to us". This nagging will be for eternity.

However, the main problem is usually NOT your parents, but YOURSELF. If you would truly realize what a necessity Torah is, you would already know what to say to your parents. This can be illustrated with the following story. A Rabbi at Neveh tried to convince a student to return to Eretz Yisroel for a second year and continue to study Torah. The student explained that he really wants to return next year, but his father adamantly opposes the idea. Unfortunately his father has a weak heart, and if he would return to Eretz Yisroel against his fathers wishes, it could cause his father to have a heart attack chas v’shalom. A few years later, the Rabbi met this fellow in the "Village" living like a Hippie. He asked the fellow if this was in accordance with his father's wishes, and if not how is he taking it. The fellow responded that of course his father was completely against it, and he almost had a heart attack, but I explained it to him, "It's my life and I have to live it the way I want. You want me to be happy and this is what makes me happy." So the Rabbi told him, "You see when it comes to something that YOU want to do, you already know what to say." Likewise, the first thing we must do is for us to first realize the necessity of Torah study. Once we have accomplished this stage it’ll be easier for us to explain it to others.

We must also know the practical halacha. Parents keep on saying Kibbud Av v’Aim, what about that?! The Shulchan Oruch (YD 240:25) says: "If a son wishes to learn somewhere where he hopes he will succeed with the Rebbi there, and the father objects on the basis of the danger involved in the traveling, the son is not required to obey his father’s wishes". Now in this case the father has no reservations against his child studying Torah. He just prefers that his son do it locally and not travel to a far away lands. Nevertheless, the son is not required to obey his father in this case. Surely if the father demands that his son stop studying Torah altogether, the son is not required to oblige.

But we must use tact and try to avoid clashes. Instead of saying blankly, "There is nothing to discuss, the Halacha says I don't have to listen," we should try our utmost to explain it to them patiently (maybe you could explain that the main thing is that you want me to be happy, well this is what will make me happy). Perhaps there are family members, rabbis, or friends that have some influence on the parents, maybe they could help out. Remember, the more they argue with you, the more they really love you, and want only what they think is best for you. However, as a last resort you must remember the Halacha.

Chazal tell us that that Rabbi Akiva was once walking in a graveyard and saw a man carrying wood and working very hard. Rabbi Akiva wanted to give him money, but he didn't want to stop. Finally Rabbi Akiva asked him if he was alive, and the man admitted that he was dead, and his punishment was to be burned everyday with the wood that he would gather. He told Rabbi Akiva that he used to be a tax collector and let the rich people off and would kill the poor people, and he even committed adultery on Yom Kippur. Rabbi Akiva asked him if he heard of any way to be freed from this punishment. He answered, that he heard that if I had a son who would stand in the congregation and say "Borchu..." they would free me. When I died I had no son, but my wife was pregnant. I don’t know if she had a boy or a girl, and even if she had a son who would teach him Torah? Rabbi Akiva found out his name was Akiva from Alduka, and his wife was Shushmira. At that moment Rabbi Akiva was pained and went from town to town until he reached Alduka. When he inquired about the man’s house they said, "May his bones rot in Gehinom." When he asked about his wife they said, "May her name be blotted out". When he asked about the son the replied that he wasn't even circumcised. Rabbi Akiva then took the child and tried to learn with him, but it didn't go, so he fasted for 40 days for him (we see how much a Rebbi should do for a talmid). A voice came out from Heaven and said, "Are you fasting for "him"?!" Rabbi Akiva said, "Yes." He taught him Aleph Beis and Birchas Hamozon and Krias Shma and Tefilla, and he put him up by the congregation and he said "Borchu..." and they responded "Boruch Hashem..." At that moment they freed the boy's father from that terrible punishment. He later came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream and said to him, "May you rest in Gan Eden because you have saved me from the punishment of Gehinom." (This story is found in Yalkut Sippurim, Parshas Vayeirah. 19:4.)

APPENDIX

PLANNING THE FUTURE*

*THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY REB CHAIM FRIEDMAN Z"L WHO WAS MAGGID SHIUR IN LONDON'S EITZ CHAIM YESHIVA FOR MANY YEARS.

When a boy reaches the age of ten or eleven his parents usually commence worrying about his future; how he will be able to earn a living when he grows up. They discuss between themselves different trades or careers which he might eventually be able to follow. Finally they arrange to meet his headmaster/principal to help them decide, and he gives his opinion as to which career is suitable according to the child's progress, intelligence and capabilities. By the "future" in this type of case we normally mean the life of a child from the age of twenty until around the age of sixty-five, about forty-five years. Does it ever occur to anyone what will happen to his neshomo in about one thousand years or even longer? When one dies, his or her neshomo commences to live its spiritual life for millions of years, in fact to eternity. "Then," the Chofetz Chaim says, "only the Torah and mitzvos performed in this world count, and decide one's future!" "What a wonderful market this world is," the Vilna Gaon once said, whilst holding tzitzis in his hand. "For a few coins, one who observes the mitzvah of tzitzis can have the honor of seeing Hashem continuously!" (Menachos 43b) When one only thinks of the energy and expense which certain people have gone through to receive a title of "Sir", or some other honor, one can fully understand the wisdom in the Gaon's remark, that one can obtain the highest honor of being in Hashem's Presence for ever and ever, so easily! After techiyas hameisim there will be no more mitzvos to keep, but the life one will then live depends on the Torah and mitzvos observed in this world. The Gemoro {Niddah 6lb) derives this from the words b'meissim chofshi, "those who have died are now always free from observing any more mitzvos." This means that there will never be any more mitzvos to perform, even after techiyas hameisim, but one will only receive reward for the mitzvos he has already done in this world. Rav Elchonon Wasserman explains that this does not mean that the Torah will be changed: the fact is that, from the very beginning, only this world was the place given to observe the mitzvos, in order that everyone should prepare himself for his eternal spiritual life. Non religious people are constantly saying that the Torah should be made easier and changed according to the times. However, when one bears in mind that the object of our Torah and mitzvos is for one's neshomo to be able to live millions of years in spiritual peace, then it is clear that one must try to perform as many mitzvos as possible and not to think of making them easier.

BUILDING UP CAPITAL Imagine a millionaire, whose years in this world are, after all, numbered and limited, still working hard at making more money. One could say to him: "Why do you need so much money? You will not live forever?" However, one's neshomo will, and therefore one must try to perform as many mitzvos as possible for the eternal life of one's neshomo. The main concern of our tzaddikim - righteous and pious men of old - was the next world. Just that their neshomos should be pure and holy. They endured hardships, even took on themselves years of exile in order to atone for their sins and purify their neshomos. A certain tourist once visited Radin, a town in Poland, and decided to visit the Chofetz Chaim. He was surprised to see only a table and a few chairs in his room. "Where is all your furniture?" asked the tourist. "Where is yours?" the Chofetz Chaim answered. "I am only here on a tour passing through Radin." the tourist replied. "in America, where I live, I could show you my possessions." "I am also passing through this world on a temporary tour." answered the Chofetz Chaim, "my possessions are in the next world." The Baal Shem Tov once said that only with Torah can one subdue his yetzer horah. When the yetzer horah sees he cannot persuade a person to stop learning Torah, he tells him to fast or say Tehillim , anything, but not to learn Torah. One must constantly bear in mind that he is not doing Hashem a favor by keeping the Torah and mitzvos, but himself. It is only a chesed, from Hashem that He gives one the opportunity to carry out the Torah and mitzvos, if one really wants to do so, in order to prepare for one's eternal life. Therefore, every year, we have a Rosh Hashana and a Yom Kippur to give us a chance to stop and reflect on our spiritual position and to atone for our sins. If we do teshuvah then our sins become mitzvos.

CASHING IN TOO EARLY The Vilna Gaon says that certain people become wealthy for various reasons. Sometimes for their good, in order for them to do more mitzvos with their wealth, and sometimes because they have no portion in the next world and are therefore given the full reward for a mitzvah they performed in this world. This can be illustrated by a very wealthy man who once visited Radin where the Chofetz Chaim lived, and was given great honor. The Chofetz Chaim was asked why this man deserved such wealth and honor if he was not religious. To which the Chofetz Chaim replied, "He must have once said y'hei shmei rabbah m'vorach and is therefore receiving reward for it in this world." A millionaire once visited the Sefas Emes and said to him in a mocking tone that he never observed Shabbos or any other mitzvos and yet was very wealthy. The Sefas Emes asked him if he ever said the Shema? He answered that he believed he did when he was young. "In that case," said the Sefas Emes, "you have not received half your reward yet." However, the real future to think about is Olam Haboh - the World to Come. A man once complained to the Chofetz Chaim that he was very poor and had nothing to live with. "And to die with have you anything," asked the Chofetz Chaim? When one dies the neshomo commences to live its life to eternity. In order to prepare for this spiritual life one must learn as much Torah (especially Mishnayos) as one can, and perform the mitzvos with as much hiddur as possible, as this is the only "food" for the life that commences immediately after death, which is the Eternal Life.

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