Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Burden of This World

The Alter Rebbe
For the Refuah Shleimah of Alon Yehuda Yosef ben
Chana Miryam

Reb Noah was a devoted disciple of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who lived in 18th century Russia. Among the Lubavitcher Hasidim, Reb Schneur Zalman is known as the Alter Rebbe because he was the first in the line of seven Lubavitcher Rebbes.

Reb Noah's son eventually married the Alter Rebbe's daughter and from that union came the Rebbe who was known as the Tzemach Tzedek. To this day, the memory of Reb Noah is well honoured amongst Lubavitchers, who tell this story about him.

After Reb Noah died and came before the Heavenly Court, they looked into his case and found that he had been a very good Jew. All his life he had observed the commandments as best he could and never missed any opportunity to perform an additional mitzvah.

Now, as is wellknown amongst the Hasidim, when a Jew says the appropriate blessing before doing a mitzvah, then a holy angel is born from that very act. These angels, it is said, will come to testify on behalf of the soul after death. And so it happened that when Reb Noah stood before the Heavenly Court, thousands upon thousands of luminous mitzvah angels came to his trial, saying "I was born from such-and-such a good deed performed by Reb Noah when he was alive on earth".

The Heavenly Court was very impressed by the testimony of all these mitzvah angels and was about to decide that Reb Noah should go immediately to Gan Eden. But suddenly another angel appeared, which was not very luminous at all. In fact, this angel was dull and lacking in light. The darkened angel stood before the Court and said "I was born from a sin that Reb Noah committed during his life on earth." Then the angel revealed to the Court exactly what the sin had been.

The three judges who sit on the Heavenly Court deliberated long and hard. On the one hand, Reb Noah was a holy man who had led a basically righteous life, so he deserved to go to Gan Eden. But on the other hand, he had committed the sin. Just as no good deed every goes unrewarded, so does no sin ever go unpunished. At long last, the Court decided to give Reb Noah two choices: he could spend a half-hour in Gehenna now, to atone for the sin, and then go straight to Gan Eden. Or, he could avoid the pain of purgatory by reincarnating on earth once again and atoning for the sin there.

Reb Noah answered: "With all due respect to this Court, I would like to consult with my Rebbe, Reb Schneur Zalman, before I make a decision. All my life I never did anything concerning my spiritual life without first asking the Rebbe's advice. And so I would like permission to ask the Rebbe about this now."

The Court consulted the Heavenly Records and found that it was indeed true. Reb Noah never did anything important without first asking the Rebbe's advice. "Very well" the Court replied, "you may return to earth in the spirit and consult with the Alter Rebbe about your decision".

Back on earth, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was sitting at the table as usual, learning Torah with his Hasidim. Then the soul of Reb Noah appeared to him in the spirit and posed the question: "Earth or Gehenna?" The Rebbe turned to his Hasidim and said "Reb Noah is here right now, and he is asking what judgment he should choose: a half hour in hell or to be reborn in this world another time."

The Hasidim said nothing. What could they say? If the Rebbe didn't know, how could they presume to decide for him? So they sat there in silence, waiting to hear what the Rebbe's answer would be.

The Alter Rebbe put his hand on his forehead, then rested his elbow on the table and concentrated very deeply. For a long long time he just sat there in silence, turning the question over in his mind, weighing all the consequences. Then came the answer: "Gehenna - to purgatory!"

As soon as the Rebbe had said the word "Gehenna", the Hasidim all heard a voice cry out "Oy, Rebbe!" At the same moment they saw, burned into the wall by the door, the outline of a human hand. It had been made by Reb Noah's soul as it entered Gehenna.

From this the Hasidim understood what a burden it is to come to this world. Better to spend half an hour in the fires of purgatory than a whole lifetime on earth once again!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Prayers for Rabbi Anava

Interrupting my own break to ask you to pray for the Refuah Shleimah for Rabbi Alon Anava who is currently in intensive care in Israel due to an infection in his blood.  He is now in a life threatening situation.  Please pray for Rabbi Alon Yehuda Yosef ben Chana Miryam.  

Monday, October 28, 2019

To everyone who has written to me, thank you for your emails.  I am taking an extended blogging break, I don't want to say I won't be back because i usually change my mind, but at this point I'm still enjoying the break and desperately needed to get away from things for a while.  I have blocked comments for the moment.  I'm still here, reading other peoples' blogs.... and doing other things and enjoying the spring weather.