Friday, August 3, 2012

A Grave Mitzva

Have any of you seen the movie The Ten Commandments? If you liked the movie, you would LOVE the book! To read the original and authentic version, open up the chumash to the sedra this week, VĂ©schanan. All ten are fascinating, interesting, and beneficial to all of us, but we're gonna focus on just one of them. Honor thy father and mother. Did you know that kibud av vaem is the only commandment that  requires of us to respect it after death too? No, this isn´t a horror film; the dead person remains in the grave at all times. What I mean is that even a parent who dies must still be treated with and spoken about with the same respect as if they were alive.
Who do we know that was famous for his kibud av vaem? The first person is Esav. Then there's the famous story of Dama Ben Nisina. What do these two people have in common besides possessing strange names? They were both not Jewish. Interestingly, the only people mentioned in the Torah for their outstanding behavior towards their parents, are non Jews. How could it be that the one commandment that we are obligated to follow during life and death is not even being fulfilled properly by Jews- only by the other nations?

So there's a machlokes- argument in the gemorah about the complications of the mitzva of kidub horim. Rav Yochanan said 'lucky is the person who's an orphan'. This statement was alluding to the fact that the mitzva of kibud av vaem is the most difficult mitzva in the Torah.
There's another gemorah that says that fulfilling this mitzva properly is so hard, that it's better not to have been born at all. This is so weird, because nowhere else do we see the Torah speaking this way. Is it also better to be born without an arm so we don't have to wear tefillin? Or without knees so we don't have to cover them? Why is this commandment so especially hard for Jews to do, but the non Jews can excel at it?
Let's hear the MAHARAL'S perspective on this.

We were brought into this world by our parents. Without them, we wouldn't be. I know its hard to picture the world without us, but it would go on even with that loss. We owe our parents everything, plus tax, for bringing us here.
 One of the most fundamental aspects of Judaism is the knowledge that we are presently living in a temporary world, walking through it in order to get to the real world.
But, there's only one person that will be responsible for your entrance into the next world. Not Dad. Not Mom. Not G-d. Only YOU.
The other nations of the world, generally are born to eat pepperoni pizza and Big Macs. They live for discos and Hummers and romance. Well, they came to the right place! They are created and brought into THE world. This is the place they live for. Therefore, they are overflowing with gratitude to their parents for bringing them to the world of their dreams. There is no other way they could've entered.
The Jews, however, were brought into this world, where we spend all our waking hours living for the next world. Even while eating pizza and driving Hummers, we're supposed to be focusing on and striving toward our eternal life in the real world. And that's haaaaard. But, since we're just paying rent here and not buying a permanent home, we're not so full of gratitude to our parents, because we're not really that thrilled to be here.
Our parents have nothing to do with our entrance to the next world. Only we do. And that's the world we're living for. So, we have a more difficult time respecting them and honoring them than the others have.

But, since we could never get to our eternal home without first passing thru here, it´s imperative to recognize everything our parents did for us and continue to do for us- from giving us life, to the constant physical and emotional support they supply us with, the list will have no beginning and no end. Therefore, the respect that we should have for them is equally limitless- and that's why the mitzva extends into the grave.

Children are a great comfort in your old age - and they help you reach it faster, too" :)
Have a great shabbos!