If a person is senile at the end of his life and he dies without the ability to do teshuvah in his last years or to review let’s say his learning or some other avodas Hashem, is this a form of punishment from Hakodosh Boruch Hu?
When a person passes away in senility and he’s not able to think thoughts of repentance or other important meditation, is that a punishment from Hashem?
I won’t say it’s a punishment. It could be that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants to make it easier for him to leave the world. Let’s say he’s an important man; he has a very big business. Now, suppose he would die with all his faculties. It would hurt him no end to give up such a great career that he has. So what does Hakodosh Boruch Hu do? He makes him senile. Little by little, this person withdraws from public life. He doesn’t feel the loss so much now and as he dies he doesn’t suffer so much. Whereas a man who dies in the midst of his career, he’s thinking, “How could I give up all my money for somebody else? I worked all my life. How could I give up my fame, my great name – whatever it is?” But now, this way, little by little he retires. He doesn’t walk in the streets anymore. People don’t visit him anymore. There’s not much there to talk to. He doesn’t understand anymore. Little by little he retires from active life and he fades away in a peaceful way; so it’s a good thing for him.
Sometimes, however, Hashem makes an exception and rewards tzaddikim with full awareness until the end. And so the tzaddik is lying on his deathbed. He’s suffering; he’s suffering very much. But he has prepared himself. All his life he was saying krias shema anticipating this moment; every day he was saying, “And you should love Hashem bechol nafshecha, with all of your soul.” And our Sages tell us that it means, “Afilu besha’ah shenotel es nafshecha – even when He’s taking away your life you still have to love Him.”
And so he’s lying on his deathbed and he says, “Yes, Hashem. I love You. I cannot forget what You did for me Hashem all my days; how happy I was all my days. I sang to You all my days because of all the good You did for me. You gave me health all my days. Just because of what’s happening now, I’m going to forget that? No; I won’t be so ungrateful like that. Now is an opportunity to love You despite my pangs. I’m going to sing to You. I’m going to die with gratitude to You, with the greatest love to You.” That’s how the tzaddik passes away. Ah! That’s called loving Hashem afilu besha’ah shenotel es nafshecha, even while He’s taking away your soul.
Now, not everybody is given such a privilege. Not everybody is prepared to utilize such a privilege. You have to train yourself. It’s not easy to love when you’re hurting all over. Did you ever see a dying man? I once visited a dying man. He was lying in a bed that had walls around it so that he shouldn’t fall out; like a baby bed with walls, like a crib. He was rolling in the bed with yesurim. It’s not pleasant to die. It’s very difficult to prepare for that moment properly.
But suppose a man had studied this all his life; like the gemara says: כל ימי הייתי מצטער על מקרא זה – All my life I was working on this possuk, מתי יבוא לידי – thinking, “When will it come to my hand I should be able to fulfill it?”You have to practice up on that when you say krias shema. In the midst of your happiness think, “I love You Hashem for giving me food every day, for giving me parnasah, for giving me a home over my head, for keeping my family well. I love You Hashem for all You’re doing for me.” Constantly you’re thinking about that. And little by little, the love becomes part of your entire personality and eventually when the last day comes—like it must for everybody—you’re thinking about how Hashem is going to bring you into the next world, the world of happiness, and you love Him even more and more; and that love overcomes all of your sufferings.
Now, the sufferings of death have two purposes among others. One purpose is it’s an atonement. When a person is willing to accept the atonement, it wipes out many sins. Another purpose of suffering and death is it makes him happy to say goodbye to this world. Otherwise, nobody wants to go out of this world. But when he’s suffering, he’s glad to get rid of his sufferings and therefore death is a gift to him. When a man understands that and he is grateful to Hashem then he passes out of this world with gratitude, with service to Hashem; that man is dying for a purpose.
TAPE # 751