Have you thought about death?
What will we be doing when we die? Will we be in pain or at peace? Will we be in touch with reality or living in a world of confusion G-d forbid?
In this week’s Parsha, we learn what the Great People of the world do at the moment of death. Yaakov Avinu leaves the world in full control of himself, giving blessings to his children and looking down the millennia through the lens of prophesy. He is not focused on his physical or even his spiritual comfort. He is not focused on himself at all. In fact, he is focused totally on the future lives of his progeny throughout history.
I often contemplate the Torah’s account of our ancestors’ wanderings in the Desert, how they complained at every turn. As King David says, “Do not harden your heart as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the Wilderness, when your ancestors tried Me. They tested Me, though they had seen My deed.” (Tehillim 95)
I think to myself: This is unbelievable! Hashem performed cosmic miracles for our ancestors, rescuing them from slavery, bringing them to Har Sinai, giving them Moshe Rabbeinu, bringing them safely through the “howling desert,” and they had no gratitude, no recollection, no stability! How can we understand this?
And then I examine my own behavior, and I realize that I act exactly the same way our ancestors did! Hashem has given me everything, and I whine and complain!
What did I learn from the Torah? Nothing.
Look at Yaakov Avinu. He is not thinking about Yaakov Avinu. He is thinking about the great mission which is entrusted to the House of Israel, to bring salvation and redemption to this world. This is the way the Great Ones live and this is how they die.
I want to tell you two stories, which occurred within a few hours of each other.
I went to the doctor last week. After leaving, I got in my car. Next to me, a parking enforcement agent was getting out of his car, which was double parked, half blocking my car. This means that, although I was able to pull out of my space, I had very little room. If I turned too hard, I would hit his car (which would not have been such a good thing).
It was actually a somewhat-provocative place for him to stop, which should have given me a clue as to what was coming. I started to pull out carefully, turning my head to see oncoming traffic. He was looking at me and looking down the street and he signaled with his hand to indicate that I should pull out. But, being cautious, I was not going to rely on him completely and I wanted to see for myself. That made him mad.
He started yelling in an angry voice, “Get moving! What are you waiting for? Move!”
I do not think he appreciated that I did not rely on his authority. Nevertheless, I pulled out slowly and carefully. Then I said, “Have a nice day,” which I also do not think he appreciated. He muttered something unpleasant as I drove away.
That’s story number one. Story number two happened a few hours later. We got home and tried to fill the doctor’s prescription. The pharmacy said, “That medication is on back order. We haven’t had it for months!”
We called another pharmacy: same answer. We called another pharmacy: same answer. I was becoming upset. I really wasn’t feeling well. So we called the doctor. Now you have to understand: this doctor is a tzaddik, a holy Jew who has devoted himself to the Klal for decades, a mainstay in Hatzolah. The doctor said, “I’ll get back you.”
We did not know what that meant. We soon found out.
A while later he called back. Please listen to the words of a tzaddik.
“I have a friend, a very smart pharmacist. He saw this coming months ago and laid in a large supply of this medication. I just picked it up for you and will drop it off at your house on my way home!”
Excuse me! “Mi k’amcha Yisroel goy echad b’aretz! … Who is like you Israel, a unique nation in the world.”
Observe the difference between a Yid and the rest of the world. Our entire purpose in life is to bring redemption! We learned it all from our Father Yaakov, whose dying thoughts were on the welfare of his descendants and their ability to bestow blessings upon this world.
May we see the day soon when the brachas of our great ancestors come to fruition with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid and the dawn of the Great Redemption!
Hatzolah: The Jewish ambulance corps
Klal: The entirety of the Jewish People