Rav Avigdor Miller on Benefitting From The Death of the Righteous



Why is the death of tzadikim considered a kaparah for the Jewish people?


And the answer is when we see how Hakodosh Boruch Hu takes away the righteous and we think, “That’s סוף כל אדם.  No matter who you are, the time will come. Even this tzaddik has to pass away,” so you begin realizing something you never thought about.  It never occurred to you that someday you’ll also have to leave this world!

That’s the biggest surprise to most people. And even though they say, “Certainly I understand that,” they don’t believe it.  They think that only those who belong to the Shtarber’s Association are those who are going to die.  “I never signed up in the Shtarber’s Club.” That’s what he thinks.

The awareness of death is so far away from us. And had it been closer to us, we would live a different life.  We would try to utilize our days to achieve more.  And therefore, misas tzaddikim is a great kaparah for people who wake up and see, “Hurry up!  Hurry up!”

Another thing is this.  When we see tzaddikim who lived a perfect life and they completed the job down to the evening, to the end of their lives they continue to be perfect, it’s a big inspiration for us.  יצא אדם לפעלו ולעבודתו עדי ערב – יצאו צדיקים לקבל שכרם למי שהשלים עבודתו עדי ערב.  Those tzaddikim who remain tzaddikim all their years, in the old age, even to the last moment, these are the examples that inspire the world.

When Reb Zelmele, the brother of Reb Chaim Volozhin, passed away, the people came to visit him just before he died.  He was lying on his bed and he was learning Torah without a stop.  So they said to him – it’s described in the sefer Toras HaAdam – they said to him, “My dear brother, why don’t you take a rest?  You’re so tired and weak.”

He said, “It’s a Gemara.  עד מתי חייב אדם ללמוד תורה? עד יום מותו שנאמר אדם כי ימות באהל.  You have to learn Torah until your last minute.”  So he kept on learning Torah to his last minute.

But then he said, “The Gemara says, שליש בישיבה שליש בעמידה שליש בהליכה  – you have to walk around a little bit too.  שליש בהליכה means you shouldn’t always sit.  You shouldn’t always lie down.  You should walk around too. And so, I want to get up and walk around a little bit to be mekayem the Gemara.”

But he was very weak.  He was on his deathbed.  So if he wants to get up he has to have a cane.  But he had no cane.  “Oh,” someone said, “there’s a cane over there near the door.  So they told Rav Zelmele, “Here’s a cane for you to use.”

But Rav Zelmele said, “No. I can’t take that cane.  It doesn’t belong to me. I can’t borrow without permission. A שואל שלא ברשות is a gazlan.”

So they ran out to find the owner and they asked permission.  And they ran back and told him that the owner gave permission. So Rav Zelmele picked up the cane and walked around, talking in learning, and then he lay down and died.

When people saw that, they were inspired.  That’s an example of a man who tried to get every drop of honey out of life.  He was sucking the honey out of life in order that every drop should be utilized.  That’s called living successfully.

And therefore, sometimes people are inspired by misas tzaddikim.

TAPE # E-1 (February 1995)