Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sefer HaChaim - Chapter Two

The Gemara states:

Rebbe Krospedai said in the name of Rebbe Yochanan: three books are opened on Rosh Hashanah, one for the utterly wicked, one for the perfectly righteous, and one for those whose merits and faults are balanced. The perfectly righteous are immediately inscribed and sealed for life. The utterly wicked are immediately inscribed and sealed for death. For those who are balanced, judgment is suspended from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. If they so merit, they are inscribed for life. If they do not merit, they are inscribed for death.

Many commentaries, including the Ramban and Rashba, contend that this Gemara cannot be interpreted literally. Otherwise, God forbid, we would see a terrible plague sweep through the world each year after Rosh Hashanah, destroying all the wicked who had been inscribed for death.

Rather, according to the principles discussed above we can explain that the wicked, though they feign a semblance of life, are indeed inscribed for death. They are like walking corpses that wander about without direction; empty husks of men who contribute nothing towards the betterment of the world.

Such is the judgment of Rosh Hashanah; we are judged on the quality of our lives. There are many different kinds of life, some of which are not considered living. As we find in the Gemara: “Four are considered like dead: the poor, those stricken with tzaraas, the blind and those who have no children”; and elsewhere, “The lives of hut-dwellers and desert-travellers are not considered living”; and, “Three people’s lives are not considered living: the overly merciful, the quick to anger, and the overly sensitive”; and, “Three people’s lives are not considered living: one who depends upon another’s generosity for sustenance, one whose wife rules over him, and one whose body is wracked by pain”; and also, “The ignorant of Torah are not alive.”

Common to all these people is the feeling of tepid futility, which strips their lives of joy and enthusiasm. A person yearns to be active and creative. Unable to do so, he can never find satisfaction. Such is the miserable state of the wicked. Their tragic existence is entirely devoid of purpose. Therefore they are not counted among the living.

In contrast stand the Tzaddikim, whose days and years are filled with life, and they leave an impression of joyous vigour in the world even after they have left it. When Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitepsk zt”l passed away, the Baal HaTanya wrote an open letter to his many Chassidim, consoling them in their loss. He quoted the Zohar, which states that after the passing of the Tzaddikim, their presence is felt in all the worlds, and their power to protect the world is greater than it was while they still lived. Furthermore, after the Tzaddik’s passing the bond between him and his disciples is strengthened, allowing them to draw a greater flow of holiness through his merit.... See more

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