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The Resume Virtues Vs. the Eulogy Virtues

Hours Before His Death, He Asked to Be Circumcised

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

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  • October 18, 2019
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  • 19 Tishrei 5780
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Class Summary:

The book of Koheles (read on Sukkos in many communities) states: “As he left his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and he will carry nothing with his toil, nothing that he can take back in his hand. This too is a grievous evil, that just as it came so shall it go, and what advantage does he have that he toil for the wind?!

Which is why it is so surprising that close to 1000 years later, Reb Yoesi ben Kisma says the exact same thing in Pirkei Avos, but seemingly as his own novel revelation?! “Furthermore,” Reb Yosei said, “when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls, escort him, only Torah and good deeds…”

Ask President Donald Trump, “Do you think that after your passing, the Trump Tower is going to come with you?” Ask Jeff Bezos, how much of his 110 billion net worth will he be able to take with him after his demise? Ask the same of Warren Buffet or George Soros. Is this some great insight invented by Reb Yoesi?

As it turns out, an idea that has just been made popular recently is recorded in the Mishnah some two millennia ago.

Were you ever at a funeral and someone stood up to say goodbye and these were his/her words: “Grandpa, as we say goodbye to you today, I can’t hold back my tears as I reflect on your long, amazingly productive life, and I think about what I will miss so deeply. You were relentless in your business dealings. You did anything to strike another deal. You were a tough negotiator. You spent 18 hours a day in the office. You sold more buildings than anyone I know, and you got more money for them than anyone I can imagine. I love so much how dedicated you were to make another buck. I will miss how dedicated you were to your new car, to your yacht, and jet. I still recall with great fondness your behavior at every closing. You were some shvitzer! You really knew how to get your way, always. If the lawyer on the other side suggested something not to your liking, your ire scared the living daylights out of everyone in that room—and grandpa once again made his money, money which he guarded more dearly than his life.”

You are smiling. Because nobody ever delivered such a eulogy.

The incredible story of a Jew who demanded to get a bris hours before his death; the story of a recording heard at an open grave during a funeral; the story of a ‘saintly’ eulogy given at the funeral of an unscrupulous man; the story of Israel’s National Poet who ate the bread kneaded with his mother’s tears; the story described in the last chapter of Koeheles—all present us with the Jewish perspective of what we think about our loved ones when we say Yizkor, and the choices we make today that will determine how our loved ones will remember us.

The Eulogy

A wealthy, stingy and self-centered Jew calls the Rabbi.

“I’m preparing for my last day, and I hear that you give the best eulogies. How much would it cost for you to officiate at my funeral?”

“We have three packages,” says the Rabbi. “The super deluxe package, the deluxe package, and the ordinary package.”

“Let me hear about the super deluxe offer—and the fee for it.”

The Rabbi says: “In the super deluxe, I sop from the first word till the last. And the entire crowd sobs with me. People are moved to the core by my description of your life and nobility, and they talk about it for months after.”

How much would that cost me?

$9,000 says the rabbi.

“That’s crazy,” says the wealthy Jew. “No way I am paying that money for my eulogy. Let me hear about the deluxe?”

The deluxe package, says the rabbi, includes a presentation about your virtues, selflessness, idealism, values, love, kindness, service, loyalty, commitments, the impact you left on so many. I also break down once in the middle, crying for a few seconds.

How much is that?

$4,500.

“No way, I am paying that!”

How much is the ordinary package?

$500.

What do I get for that?

The rabbi answers: “For that—I just say the TRUTH.”

Koheles and Reb Yosei Ben Kisma’s Response

Koheles, that powerful book of Ecclesiastes, read in many communities on Sukkos, reads:

As he left his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and he will carry nothing with his toil, nothing that he can take back in his hand. This too is a grievous evil, that just as it came so shall it go, and what advantage does he have that he toil for the wind?! (Koheles 5:14-15).

Which is why it is so surprising that close to 1000 years later, Reb Yoesi ben Kisma says the exact same thing, but seemingly as his own novel revelation?!

It is a fascinating Mishnah in the Ethics of the Fathers:

אבות פרק ו משנה ט: אמר רבי יוסי בן קסמא: פעם אחת הייתי מהלך בדרך ופגע בי אדם אחד, ונתן לי שלום, והחזרתי לו שלום. אמר לי: רבי! מאיזה מקום אתה? אמרתי לו: מעיר גדולה של חכמים ושל סופרים אני. אמר לי: רבי! רצונך שתדור עמנו במקומנו ואני אתן לך אלף אלפים דינרי זהב ואבנים טובות ומרגליות? אמרתי לו: אם אתה נותן לי כל כסף וזהב ואבנים טובות ומרגליות שבעולם, איני דר אלא במקום תורה. וכן כתוב בספר תהלים, על ידי דוד מלך ישראל: "טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף".

ולא עוד, אלא שבשעת פטירתו של אדם אין מלוין לו לאדם לא כסף ולא זהב ולא אבנים טובות ומרגליות, אלא תורה ומעשים טובים בלבד. שנאמר (משלי ו, כב): בְּהִתְהַלֶכְךָ - תַּנְחֶה אֹתָךְ, בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ - תִּשְׁמֹר עָלֶיךָ, וַהֲקִיצוֹתָ - הִיא תְשִׂיחֶךָ. "בהתהלכך תנחה אתך" – בעולם הזה; "בשכבך תשמור עליך" – בקבר; "הקיצות היא תשיחך" – לעולם הבא. וכן כתוב בספר תהילים, על ידי דוד מלך ישראל (תהלים קיט, עב): "טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף". ואומר (חגי ב, ח): "לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאם ה' צבאות".

Said Rabbi Yosei the son of Kisma: Once, I was traveling, and I encountered someone. He greeted me and I returned his greetings. Said he to me: "Rabbi, where are you from?" Said I to him: "From a great city of sages and scholars, am I." Said he to me: "Rabbi, would you like to dwell with us in our place? I will give you a million dinars of gold, precious stones and pearls." Said I to him: "If you were to give me all the silver, gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere but in a place of Torah. Indeed, so is written in the book of psalms by David the king of Israel: `I prefer the Torah of Your mouth over thousands in gold and silver' (Psalms 119:72).

“Furthermore,” Reb Yosei said, “when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls, escort him, only Torah and good deeds…”

What’s the Novelty?

There is something amiss here.

Reb Yosei states: “Furthermore, when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls accompany him, only Torah and good deeds…” It sounds like he is saying something novel and innovative. But do we need Reb Yosei to teach us this truth? Who does not know this?

Ask President Donald Trump, “Do you think that after your passing, the Trump Tower—that 58-floor, 664-foot-tall mixed-use skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan—is going to come with you?” Do you think he might say yes?! Ask Jeff Bezos, how much of his 110 billion net worth will he be able to take with him after his demise, what do you think he will say? Warren Buffet and George Soros will not be able to disagree.

From the greatest believer to the most outspoken atheist, does anyone think that they take anything along with them after their death? When you die, you don’t take along any real estate, cars, or even a can of coke or an extra pair of socks. A corpse is incapable of much more than being interred.

Regardless, it was said best by Ecclesiastes, more than 1000 years before the Mishna was written!

Woody Allen quipped: “I don't believe in the afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.”

Someone once said: “I always feel better when my doctor says something is normal for my age but then think dying will also be normal for my age at some point.”

“I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought to myself this is the last thing I need.”

Do I really need one of the great Talmudic sages to teach me this truth—and make it sound so novel—that “people do not take along silver, gold and diamonds?”

Those Left Behind

But if we examine the words of Reb Yoesi more closely, we can see he is not talking about the diseased. He is talking about the people who are left behind and are saying goodbye to the one who passed.

“Furthermore,” Reb Yoesi said, “when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls, escort him, only Torah and good deeds…”

Reb Yoesi is referring to the people who escort the person on his or her final journey. He is addressing the people who are still alive and asking them to reflect on how they escort and bid farewell to a loved one who died. “Neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls, escort him.”

2000 years ago, this great sage was teaching us something that has become a well-known topic only recently.

The Nature of a Eulogy

Were you ever at a funeral and someone stood up to say goodbye and these were his/her words:

“Grandpa, as we say goodbye to you today, I can’t hold back my tears as I reflect on your long, amazingly productive life, and I think about what I will miss so deeply. You were relentless in your business dealings. You did anything to strike another deal. You were a tough negotiator. You spent 18 hours a day in the office. You sold more buildings than anyone I know, and you got more money for them than anyone I can imagine. I love so much how dedicated you were to make another buck, and I will miss that forever. I will miss how dedicated you were to your new car, to your yacht, and jet. I can still recall how you freaked out when I touched it your fancy fresh car with my dirty hands.

“I still recall with great fondness your behavior at every closing. You were some shvitzer! You really knew how to get your way, always. If the lawyer on the other side suggested something not to your liking, your ire scared the living day lights out of everyone in that room—and grandpa once again made his money, money which he guarded more dearly than his life.”

You are smiling. Because nobody ever delivered such a eulogy.

The Saint

You know the story:

In a small town, there were two Jewish brothers who, over the course of many years, cheated, swindled, robbed and generally stole from everyone that they ever did business with.

the entire town and surrounding community reviled and despised these two brothers as everyone was aware of just how disreputable and dishonest they were.

One day, one of the brothers mysteriously died.

Although they had never attended synagogue, the one remaining brother went to the local rabbi and offered vast sums of money if he would come officiate at the funeral and say the appropriate words, AND, a large bonus, but ONLY if he would - during the course of the eulogy -refer to his brother as "a saint.”

The brother also warned the rabbi that if he would not do that, he would personally see to it that local bank which he owned would stop helping the synagogue in any which way.  

The rabbi was troubled by the request. However, it was a very poor synagogue and the shul desperately needed repairs. And they also relied on the bank for all the checks that did not often have enough money in the bank to delay the bouncing.

The whole community had heard about the news and the rabbi's dilemma and all came to the funeral, curious to see what he would do.

The Funeral began, the shul was packed, and the rabbi started with the usual prayers and followed the rites and traditions as required by Jewish tradition. In closing, after referring to the man in the box, he paused and turned to face the remaining brother.

He began, "As you all know, the departed was an awful individual who robbed, cheated, swindled and stole from everyone he ever did business with.

However, compared to his Brother, he was - "a saint!"

Why Not Speak Truth?

But here is my question. Why don’t people give eulogies as the one I described? All the above is true! This fellow’s grandfather was a shvitzer. He did everything to make another dollar. He was crazy about his car. And he was proud of it too! He spent most of his day and night in the office, and he was beyond passionate about making more and more money. So why not talk at the funeral bout what this fellow was really involved in for fifty years day and night?

Instead, here is what we hear so often:

“Grandpa, as we say goodbye to you today, I can’t hold back my tears as I reflect on your long, amazingly productive life, and I think about what I will miss so deeply. You were so busy in your work, yet I know how much you loved grandma and your family. You had an insane work schedule, but when you called me to wish me happy birthday, I can feel your heart aglow with affection. I will never forget how the community needed a center, and you contributed one of your buildings. I still recall when your old partner came in to the house one day, he lost his home. And you gave him a loan for $100,000.”

Common, this is insane. You ignore 50 years of what he did day and night, and you excavate three stories of kindness, and that becomes the focus of the eulogy? Is this a eulogy or a joke?

Why not speak about what the man has done 18 hours a day, for 50 years straight. Why not speak about what the man did from morning to night, most of his life? Why dig me up a couple of heartwarming good night stories abut him? If he was not ashamed to live that way, why not focus on that during the funeral?

The Resume and the Funeral

In his book The Road to Character David Brooks captured this moving truth:

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

What are the ideals for which we live, and how do we live them? What type of light, goodness, holiness, kindness, did we bring into our homes, communities, and the world? What did we leave behind? Our ideals, values, sacrifices, commitments; our love, integrity, faith and spirituality. These are not what we write on our résumé, but they make all the difference to our quality of life and the impact we have on those around us.

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

What David Brooks just made famous in his best-selling book, is summed up in the above Mishnah in these few words: “When a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls escort him, only Torah and good deeds…”

At such a moment of truth, when we say goodbye to a loved one, suddenly, what this guy may have been doing for 18 hours a day becomes almost irrelevant. How do we escort him? What do we speak of at his or her funeral? The person’s good deeds, their mitzvos, maasim tovim, the Torah they learnt, embodied, and lived by, the moral and spiritual principals and light which emanated from their souls.

We all know how right Reb Yosei was! You show me one funeral where anyone talks about anything but topics like the diseased person’s selflessness, moral courage, moral integrity, sensitivity, love, positive impact on others, their idealism, joy, courage, sacrifices, profound struggles, good deeds, good manners, social involvement, cheerfulness, humor, and those aspects of their lives which brightened and inspired the lives of others.

Your Yizkor Thoughts

As you say Yizkor today, what are your thoughts when you think lovingly of your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, spouses, siblings, close friends, or other loved ones whom you are remembering today?

Do we think about our parents’ resume virtues or eulogy virtues?

The Sob

Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873 – 1934), was a Russian Jewish poet who wrote in Hebrew. Bialik was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poets and came to be recognized as Israel's national poet.

He captures this feeling in his poem “Shirati” (my poetry) where he tries to trace the origin of the sigh, the sob, the ‘krechts’, so frequently found in his poetry. He describes the misery of his childhood; his father died when he was very young, leaving seven young orphans. His mother slaved in a little store supporting his brothers and sisters. Only in the evening could she begin her cooking, cleaning and sewing.

Late one night the little boy rose from his bed and saw his mother cooking in the kitchen. In utter exhaustion she was weeping as she kneaded dough for bread. As she baked by candlelight, her lips moved in prayer, “May I bring up my children to be G-d-fearing Jews. May they be true to Torah. May they not disgrace their humanity, their souls, and their family.” As she prayed, the tears rolled down her sweet, tired, lonely cheeks. She did not realize it, but her tears mixed with the dough.

Little Bialik saw this heart-rendering sight and returned to bed. The next morning, he ate this very bread.

“As I ate, I swallowed my mother’s tears. Part of my mother was in that bread! And now you know why there are tears in my eyes, why there is a sigh in my breast.”

I Carry My Parents

This is the truth of life: A portion of our parents is implanted within us. Unbeknownst to them, they made indelible impressions on us that have been permanently recorded into our very beings. We eat their tears and their laughs. We drink their smiles and their sacrifices. We consume their joys and passions. We breathe their faith and sense of duty. Their obituaries do not lie buried in some old newspaper. It is recorded and alive in our hearts and souls.

In describing death, the Hebrew Bible frequently uses the phrase, “He expired and was gathered into his people.” “Vayasef el Amuv.” It says this about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others.

What is the meaning of this strange expression—he was gathered into his people? There is a subtle message here: When we die, we don’t disappear, we are rather “gathered into the people.” That’s where we wind up – in people. People wind up in people, not in the ground. Today by Yizkor, you and I will experience our loved ones; we will not focus on their resume virtues, but on their eulogy virtues.

And how would you and I like to be remembered? How would you like to be remembered one day, when your children will be saying Yizkor for you? How do we want to be remembered by the generations coming after us? Are you living today the life you will be proud of when looking back at the age of 105? Are you focused more on your resume virtues or your eulogy virtues?

Reb Yosei was not trying to teach us about funerals. He was trying to teach us how to live today. As Ecclesiastes—which we read on Sukkos—says:[1] “And the living shall take to heart.”

You know when you are in the presence of someone who has the eulogy virtues. David Brooks maintains that these people “seem to possess an impressive inner cohesion.” They are not leading “fragmented, scattershot lives.” They are grounded, they have roots, they know what matters in the long run, and they can tell the difference between the music and the noise. The result is that they are not “blown off course by storms,” nor do they “crumble in adversity.” They radiate, he says, “a sort of moral joy.” They are not defeated by failure or wounded by criticism. They have a massive internal strength and they make a real difference to those whose lives they touch.

To Die as a Jew

Rabbi Chaim and Chayale Slavaticki are the Chabad ambassadors to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, since 2011. During their first year, on the day before Passover, he went to visit a local Jewish doctor to give him matzah for the Seder. “I can’t chat right now,” the doctor said to the Rabbi (he was in middle of a procedure), “but that woman in the corner of the waiting room is Jewish. Maybe she’ll want some matzah too.”

The lady was sitting with a magazine. When Rabbi Slavaticki walked over to her and offered her matzah for Passover, she said: “Leave me alone. I’m not religious.”

 “I just want to give you some matzos for the holiday,” he said.

“I don’t want anything from you.”

“It’s free,” Rabbi Slavaticki offered, thinking that she had misunderstood.

“I don’t believe in organized religion!”

Rabbi Slavaticki retracted the box of matzah and instead reached for one of the shiny new business cards in his jacket pocket. He left it on the chair near the woman, knowing that she wouldn’t take it if he handed it to her. “You can always reach out to me if you need something,” he said before heading to the door.

Six months later, two days before Rosh Hashanah, he gets a call. “I am the rude lady from the doctor’s office a few months ago,” is how she introduced herself. “My father is in the hospital and the doctors gave him 48 hours.” She paused. “He asked to see a rabbi, and you’re the only one I know whose number I have.”

15 minutes later, Rabbi Slavaticki was there.

“My father is in stage four now. The doctors said he’s going to go soon. We’re Jewish, but we never did anything Jewish, so I’m confused about why he wants to see a rabbi. My sister and I never had a bat mitzvah. We never went to a temple or synagogue, even on the High Holidays. We spent our Sundays having fun, not at Hebrew school. We are completely unaffiliated,” she told the Chabad Rabbi.

He entered the room of the patient, Ronnie.

The patient, 78 years of age, asked both of his daughters to leave the room.

When they left the room, he turned to the Rabbi and said: “I was born a Jew; I want to die a Jew too.”

Rabbi Slavaticki nodded. “Don’t worry, Ronnie. When the time comes, I will do everything to make sure you have a traditional kosher burial.”

Ronnie shook his head. “No, I want to die a Jew.” Rabbi Slavaticki tilted his head in confusion and waited for Ronnie to explain.

“Rabbi, I was born a Jew, but I never had a bris (circumcision). I want to die a Jew. The door is closed. Do whatever you need to do. Do the circumcision right now. I want to die as a full circumcised Jew.”

“I am not a mohel,” the rabbi said. “But let me try to get one.”

“Promise me, please, that I will die a Jew.”

After calling several mohalim, Rabbi Slavaticki located one in southern Florida who could make the trip that afternoon. He poked his head into Ronnie’s room to share the good news—and the nurse there raised her eyebrows. “You want to arrange a circumcision here?” she asked. “There’s no way the hospital will approve.”

“What are you afraid of?” Ronnie said. “That the bris will kill me?! I’m dying anyway! Bring me whichever waivers you have, and I’ll sign them.”

One of the daughters, Samantha, living in Atlanta and visiting her dying father, freaked out. She said to the nurse: “My father is not in his right mind right now.” She defined the Chabad rabbi as a religious lunatic and wanted him expelled from the hospital for trespassing and bothering her old man, moments before his death, trying to “force him undergo a surgery!...”

Rabbi Slavaticki slipped out of the room and called a Jewish doctor who practiced in the hospital. Over the phone, Rabbi Slavaticki explained the situation. The doctor promised he would do what he can. A few minutes later he called back the rabbi and said that the legal department of the hospital said that “if you find a mohel who is also a doctor and who is insured under the same umbrella policy as the hospital, they will let you do the bris.”

But he could not find anyone with these qualifications. He called everyone he knew in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, then in the Carolinas and Virginia. But to no avail.

At last he found someone from Brooklyn, New York who fit the bill.

“Get me a ticket and I’m coming down.”

On the next day at three p.m., on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, several hours before welcoming the New Year, an elderly Jew was welcomed into the bris of Avraham Avinu. Ronnie chose his own Hebrew name, after the man who had had a bris at the age of 99, the first Jew.

He chose the name Avraham.

Rabbi Slavaticki sat with Avraham, squeezing his hand every time the pain spiked. With his eyes closed from exhaustion and a voice so weak it disappeared after every few words, the new circumcised Jew spoke. “People always talk about Jewish guilt,” he said, “but it never reached me. I had a good life, a good business, two beautiful daughters, a house, even a boat. I lived almost eight decades that way and I was happy. I never looked for more and I never wanted to.

“When the doctor came in and told me that I had 48 hours to live, it triggered so many thoughts. I had built a fine life; but I realized that the one thing I didn’t have a relationship with was the one thing I’m taking with me—my soul, the only thing that will be left of me when everything else is gone.

“I can’t tell you where it came from, but as soon as the doctor mentioned the little time I had left, everything I had surrounded myself with evaporated and I felt empty. I had nothing. I thought about the bris I never cared to have before and asked my daughters to call a rabbi.

“At least now I have something to take up there with me when I die,” he said.

“I’m ready to meet G-d now.”[2]

Although the doctors had given him only 48 hours, Hashem gave Ronnie a few more weeks to revel in the new life he had just begun. He had his first Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as a full member of Avraham’s tribe. He heard the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and on Sukkos, Rabbi Slavaticki walked two hours to the hospital with a lulav and esrog so he can shake it. Ronnie’s hands shook as he held the four species and said the blessing for the Lulav for the first time in his life.

Days later, as Jews around the world prepared to dance with the Torah, on Simchas Torah, an elderly man in a Florida hospital, Avraham, passed away, his hands filled with the holy things he could take with him to the next world.

There is a postscript to this story. After their father passed away, the two daughters, Maya and Samantha, made arrangements for his cremation. Echoing his promise to Avraham, Rabbi Slavaticki tried reasoning with them. Eventually, both daughters agreed. Maya paid $2,000 toward the expenses and Samantha gave $695, not a penny more than she would have chipped in for the cremation. Rabbi Slavaticki’s Chabad Jewish Center absorbed the remaining $9,000 in expenses which was not easy for him.

Avraham had a full Jewish burial, with Kaddish, and all of the Jewish traditions.

Time has passed. The Slavatickis hosted the completion of a Sefer Torah at their shul. The woman who donated the Torah invited her friends, which included many secular Jews, to come for the dancing and festivities. When Chayale Slavaticki went through the mail a few days later, she found a check from a woman living in Atlanta.

The enclosed letter read: “I was at the Sefer Torah celebration you hosted last week (her friend invited her and she came.) Watching the parade accompany the Holy Scroll down the streets of Fort Lauderdale and hearing people speak about their connection to the Torah’s timeless values woke up a part of me that I didn’t know existed. I never planned to give my son a bar mitzvah, but after the Sefer Torah celebration, I made arrangements for him to learn about Judaism with our local rabbi. I want him to know what it means to be a Jew.

“This check is to cover some of the costs of my father’s Jewish funeral. Thank you for taking care of him when I wouldn’t.

“With a grateful heart,

“Samantha, daughter of Avraham.”

She paid up the $9000.

Our Own Reckoning

Like Ronnie, each of us must face a moment, when our resume virtues melt away in the presence of our eulogy virtues. When I need to ask myself, what is the focus of my life? Have I been nurturing that part of myself which I can take with me when my time comes? Have I placed enough focus on that which lives on after me? How will I be remembered? Have I invested enough time and energy in eulogy virtues as much as in resume virtues?

In the words of Reb Yosei: “Furthermore, when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls, escort him, only Torah and good deeds…”

Your Final Destination

I share with you a true story that occurred at a recent funeral.[3]

It was a graveside funeral and everyone was standing around the grave waiting for the casket to be fully lowered into the grave site.

At the casket was lowered and almost settled down below, with everyone in quiet attendance, suddenly, the following message was heard by all:

"You have arrived at your final destination."

Someone's GPS program was still active and for whatever reason only decided to sign off right

there, at the gravesite, where the deceased had indeed arrived at his final destination.

You can't make it up.

Life is a long Waze journey, with many destinations. But you want to make sure that you invest enough time, energy, money, resources and heart in that which you and I can take with when we arrive at our final destination.

In the moving words of Ecclesiastes in his final chapter:

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of decline come…

Before the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars darken, and the clouds return after the rain.

On the day that the keepers of the house tremble, and the mighty men are seized by cramps, and the grinders cease, and those who look out of the windows become darkened…

Before the silver cord snaps, and the golden fountain is shattered, and the pitcher breaks at the fountain, and the wheel falls shattered into the pit.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God, Who gave it…

"Vanity of vanities," said Koheles; "all is vanity."

The end of the matter, after everything has been heard is this:

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire purpose of a human being.[4]

 

[1] Koheles 7:2

[2] To appreciate what this man did, see the story in Talmud Avodah Zarah 10b, about Ketoah bar Sholom, who convinced the Roman Emperor not to kill the Jews, for which he was being executed. Before he died, he went through a bris, and as a result, earned Olam Haba, the world to come.

[4] One year, at the end of a very long Sukkos fabrengen (I think 5721), the Rebbe said: the summation of everything discussed tonight is—and the Rebbe quoted this verse at the conclusion of Koheles.

Please leave your comment below!

    Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah 5780

    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • October 18, 2019
    • |
    • 19 Tishrei 5780
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    • 162 views
    • Comment

    Class Summary:

    The book of Koheles (read on Sukkos in many communities) states: “As he left his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and he will carry nothing with his toil, nothing that he can take back in his hand. This too is a grievous evil, that just as it came so shall it go, and what advantage does he have that he toil for the wind?!

    Which is why it is so surprising that close to 1000 years later, Reb Yoesi ben Kisma says the exact same thing in Pirkei Avos, but seemingly as his own novel revelation?! “Furthermore,” Reb Yosei said, “when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls, escort him, only Torah and good deeds…”

    Ask President Donald Trump, “Do you think that after your passing, the Trump Tower is going to come with you?” Ask Jeff Bezos, how much of his 110 billion net worth will he be able to take with him after his demise? Ask the same of Warren Buffet or George Soros. Is this some great insight invented by Reb Yoesi?

    As it turns out, an idea that has just been made popular recently is recorded in the Mishnah some two millennia ago.

    Were you ever at a funeral and someone stood up to say goodbye and these were his/her words: “Grandpa, as we say goodbye to you today, I can’t hold back my tears as I reflect on your long, amazingly productive life, and I think about what I will miss so deeply. You were relentless in your business dealings. You did anything to strike another deal. You were a tough negotiator. You spent 18 hours a day in the office. You sold more buildings than anyone I know, and you got more money for them than anyone I can imagine. I love so much how dedicated you were to make another buck. I will miss how dedicated you were to your new car, to your yacht, and jet. I still recall with great fondness your behavior at every closing. You were some shvitzer! You really knew how to get your way, always. If the lawyer on the other side suggested something not to your liking, your ire scared the living daylights out of everyone in that room—and grandpa once again made his money, money which he guarded more dearly than his life.”

    You are smiling. Because nobody ever delivered such a eulogy.

    The incredible story of a Jew who demanded to get a bris hours before his death; the story of a recording heard at an open grave during a funeral; the story of a ‘saintly’ eulogy given at the funeral of an unscrupulous man; the story of Israel’s National Poet who ate the bread kneaded with his mother’s tears; the story described in the last chapter of Koeheles—all present us with the Jewish perspective of what we think about our loved ones when we say Yizkor, and the choices we make today that will determine how our loved ones will remember us.

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