birds flying over sea with boat

Two of the many thoughts that came to me during the levaya of R’ Cheshin zt”l and the ensuing processing of this loss (which is yet very much incomplete):

1] If we do not “mourn” our loved ones when they are alive, yearning for them and appreciating them as much now as we would were they ch”v to be taken from us r”l, then they are already dead from our perspective. However, if we make sure to yearn and “mourn” for those we love, cherishing each moment against the backdrop of life’s great uncertainty, it is then and only then that they are truly alive to us. Perhaps this is the deeper meaning of Chazal’s teaching that Yaakov couldn’t stop mourning for Yosef because he was still alive; it was his mourning for him that brought him most to life. This is also the idea discussed by the tzaddikim regarding the maamar Chazal, “Kol hamisabei al Yerushalayim zocheh v’ro’eh b’simchasa”: the intensity of the “not-having” of one who truly yearns for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim is saturated with the utmost “having”. This was the subject of a shiur I gave on Gevurah Sh’B’Netzach.

2] When we attend a funeral, we come face to face with the aspect of “U’l’an atah holeich”, and “tizkor yom hamisah” – the sobering realization that no one lives forever and that our world is far closer to the spiritual realm than we might feel comfortable believing. This feeling leads to regret and the resolute decision to improve, to make the most of life instead of spending our time with inanities. Usually, our longing for the person and the feeling of being bereft and alone is the reason for our tears, not this thought of contrition. However, perhaps there is a deeper level here. The Ba’al Shem Tov famously taught that a person is where his thoughts are (“B’machshavto shel adam sham hu ha’adam”). Perhaps when we think about a person soon after he or she has passed, some part of us is present, at that moment, with the one who has passed and sees the great judgment that takes place when the soul rises to the next world etc. “Mazlayhu chazi” – subconsciously, we are shaken by this soul-vision and this causes us to cry tears of regret and resolution toward change, masked by a feeling of longing – which is, of course, what caused the soul-vision in the first place. (In the years after a person has passed, we no longer cry when we think of them – instead, their memory gives us comfort. Perhaps we can suggest that part of the reason is that their state is no longer so precarious and frightening – at this point they are enjoying their eternal reward etc.)

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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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