“They do not know, nor do they understand. They walk in
darkness; all foundations of the earth collapse.” (Psalm 82)
We mourn the loss of Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon zaicher tzaddik livracha.
It’s not just one man; it is an era of great rabbis who rose above their own individuality, whose shmira and spiritual emanation spread over all of Israel.
The great Rabbi Avraham ha Kohain Pam zt’l left this world a few days before September 11, 2001. At that time Rabbi Elya Svei zt”l said that, if Rav Pam had still been in this world, 9/11 could not have happened because his influence would have shielded us.
“Rabbi Elazar said on behalf of Rabbi Chanina: Torah scholars increase peace in the world …. There is abundant peace for the lovers of Your Torah, and there is no stumbling block for them.” (Brachos 64a)
When Reb Chaim Kanievsky zt”l left this world, I wrote that we had lost our protection. Immediately following his passing, the world was plunged into darkness, and since then we have been exposed to raw suffering unlike what almost any of us can remember.
Last week we read, “During those many days it happened that the king of Egypt died and the children of Israel groaned because of the work and they cried….G-d heard their moaning and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitzchak and with Yaakov.…” (Shemos 2:23ff)
It had been over two hundred years since Yaakov Avinu had descended to Mitzraim and over one hundred years since the slavery had begun. The Avos were gone and the Shevatim were gone and there was no shmira, no protection. With the ancient great ones gone, their descendants labored in darkness.
My friends, today we are in a similar matzav. The great, ancient ones are leaving us and there is no one to fill their giant shoes, those whose powerful emanations of Torah were like a giant mikveh of purity which covered Am Yisroel. We are bereft and laboring in darkness. “Children of Man, who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, shackled in affliction and iron ….” (Tehillim 107)
I remember meeting Reb Matisyahu one Shabbos on the streets of Lakewood. It was a cold afternoon. Unlike most of Lakewood, I could not deal with walking without gloves. I was embarrassed when we shook hands and mumbled something about my gloves, to which he replied, “Don’t worry. The bracha goes through leather!”
Do you see how gadolim soothe troubled souls? Who but a gadol could speak like that!
Now what are we to do?
We are stumbling in the darkness, groaning and crying for salvation like the Children of Israel in Mitzraim. The focus of the entire world is upon Eretz Yisroel and Am Yisroel. We are regarded as obstacles in their quest for happiness, isolated and alone. As the light of so many gadolim from the previous generation is snuffed out, the darkness is growing.
In the deep darkness of Mitzraim, Hashem sent a yeshua from the most unexpected place. “Moshe guided the sheep “far into the wilderness.” (Shemos 3:1) We have to separate ourselves from the noise of the world and try to comprehend Reality without the distractions blaring and blasting from every screen and loudspeaker. That is one reason we cover our eyes when we say “Shema.” (Sefer “Kol Aryeh”) We are trying not to “follow after our hearts and eyes,” but rather to seek to hear the Word of Hashem which we heard at Har Sinai.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says, “G-d’s appearance in the thornbush proclaims the following great truth: even the humblest place is not too lowly to become an abode of the Divine Presence.” (Shemos 3:2, quoting Shemos Rabbah 2:5)
The isolation of darkness is the ideal place to discover Hashem. This is where Yaakov Avinu saw the ladder up to Shomayim and Dovid Hamelech heard Hashem’s voice. The lonely desert where Moshe Rabbeinu saw a bush on fire is the same place where Am Yisroel learned Torah for forty years. Today, in isolation from the rest of the world, pushed away by their hatred, Am Yisroel is crying out for our Father, Avinu Malkeinu!
As the darkness grows at the end of Shabbos, we sing to Hashem:
“Gam ki ailaich … Though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Tehillim 23) “Beloved of the soul, Compassionate Father, draw Your servant to Your will …. Please take pity … for it is so very long that I have yearned intensely to see the splendor of Your strength …. Spread … the shelter of Your peace upon me .… for the time has come.” (Yedid Nefesh)
As the darkness deepens, dawn approaches. May we see it soon in our days!
Avinu Malkeinu: Our Father, our King
Avos: The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
Gadol: A great person, an eminent rabbi
Matzav: The general situation
Mitzraim: Biblical Egypt
Shmira: protection, spiritual influence
Shevatim: The Twelve Tribes of Israel, specifically their progenitors, Jacob’s sons
Sne: The thornbush, where Moses first spoke to G-d
Yetzer Hara: The Evil Inclination
zt”l: Acronym for “zaicher tzaddik livracha … may his memory be for a blessing”