Friday, August 8, 2014

A Grave Mitzva

Have 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, V√©schanan. All ten are fascinating, interesting, and beneficial to all of us, but we're gonna focus on just one of them now: Honor thy father and mother.  

Did you know that kibud av vaem is the only commandment that is required of us to fulfill 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 after a parent dies they 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 also the famous story in the gemorah of Dama Ben Nesina. 
What do these two people have in common besides possessing strange names? 
They both were 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 which we are obligated to follow during life as well as after 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 kidud 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. 

How weird is that? 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 keep, but non-Jews can excel at it? 
 Let's hear the Maharal's perspective on it.

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, just 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 my entrance into the next world. Not Dad. Not Mom. Not God. Only me.

Our non-Jewish neighbors and fellow world inhabitants are born to eat pepperoni pizza and Big Macs. They live for material pleasures and gastronomical pleasure and sensual pleasure and fashion pleasures.They are created, and then brought into the world. This is the place they live for. Therefore, it's logical for them to be overflowing with gratitude to their parents for bringing them into the world of their dreams.
There is no other way they could've gotten here to be able to experience their wordly pleasures.

The Jews, however, were brought into this world, where we spend all our waking hours living for the next world. 
Don't get me wrong- I have an unbreakable bond with my pizza. Don't even try getting between us. But even while eating pizza, or sushi, or shwarma...or, while vacationing in Puerto Rico or Cancun....or while driving my BMW or wearing my beautiful ring of diamonds, I'm supposed to be focusing on and striving toward my eternal life in the real world. 
That. Is. Hard. 
So, since we're just paying rent here and not buying a permanent home, maybe we're not naturally that full of gratitude to our parents, because we're not really that thrilled to be here at all.
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, perhaps 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 through 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!

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