The Afterlife Article
Â found that the best way for me to get used to speaking fluent Hebrew and to get familiar with Israeli slang and culture is by reading a Hebrew joke book and testing the jokes on Israeli kids. Jokes are short, so you can remember their exact wording, and this way, you learn the way the Israelis think and speak. You learn their lingo. For Americans many of these Israeli jokes are not funny. Many of them have lessons, somewhat bittersweet. Israeli culture likes jokes about miserly people. The cheapskate, the miser, is called kamtzan. * “What sign does the kamtzan hang on his door?… Whoever comes, Baruch Habah! (Welcome!) Whoever doesnâ€™t come, Baruch Hashem!! ( Thank G-d!). *A miser was lying on his death bed, coughing his last. He summoned all the family members to his bedroom, and could barely open his eyes to see who was with him for his last, precious moments on earth. Dear wife, are you at my side? Yes, I am right here with you. David, is that you ? Itâ€™s me, Dad. Sarah, are you near my bed? I am right here. They all edged closer to hear his last wordsâ€¦ If you are all here with me in my bedroom, why is the light still on in the kitchen?!?!!
While I was sitting with a friend at a family Sheva Berachot, he mentioned that he helps couples in making harmony at home. I knew that he did not learn any sort of therapy, psychology, coaching, CBT… I asked him if he is successful. Extremely successful. What is your approach? I learn with them one-on-one from the works of Lev Eliyahu, Râ€™ Eliyahu Lopian. It is Mussar that talks to the heart. It puts things in the proper perspective without facing resistance, but by going around it. It deals with the problem at the root, not on the surface.
So, I opened the Lev Eliyahu this week, and this is the gist of what he said in this week’s parasha. Rashi writes that Hashem commanded Aharon to bring the Korban Olah, the sacrifice that is totally consumed on the Altar, with nothing remaining for Aharon. There are several words in Hebrew for commanding. The word used here for “command” is a strong one â€“ ×¦×•. This is because, G-d wanted Aharon to overcome the tendency to be stingy, as this sacrifice entailed monetary loss for him. In the other Korbanot, the other sacrifices, the Priest would receive some of the meat or the skins, so there was no concern that Aharon would be unenthusiastic in performing the service, and the Torah did not feel the need to use this stronger term of commanding. But in the Olah sacrifice, everything, all the profit, goes to G-d.
What?!? Do we have to worry about Aharon being selfish? Would such a great man allow his service to be slack, just because he had no skins or steaks to expect from bringing the Olah sacrifice? R. Lopian tells us that there is a rule of mussar here that has no exceptions. It applies to everyone, everywhere and at all times. ××œ ×ª××ž×Ÿ ×‘×¢×¦×ž×š ×¢×“ ×™×•× ×ž×•×ª×š Donâ€™t believe that you have conquered your Evil Inclination till the day you die. You can only defeat your Evil Inclination temporarily; you can never conquer it. The Evil Inclination loves money. He lusts immorality. He has a crazed desire for power and fame. Even if you are of the holiest of men, the highest of High Priests.
Râ€™ Lopian writes that the Evil Inclination has a way to make a person crave money even on his death bed. He witnessed a dying miser, saying how much he had suffered from running after money his whole life long. He said that this man, with great effort, stretched out his hand, and said, “If someone wrote me a check, I would take it and hide it under my pillow!”
Where are you going with that check? Where are you taking your money? This is the greatest ploy of the Evil Inclinationâ€¦ to make you believe, against reality, that this world is the only world. Rav Lopian quotes the Shaarei Teshuva of Rabbeinu Yonah, who puts it down in no uncertain terms . The one difference between the righteous and the wicked is that the wicked believe only in this world, and the righteous are aware of and focused on the next world. The wicked want material gain, not as a means, but as â€œThe Goalâ€, whereas the righteous look at this world as the means to get to â€œThe Ultimate Goalâ€. Thatâ€™s what it all boils down to. Which is greater, the spiritual or the material value? This is one of the greatest decisions we make. Not only daily, but constantly. The Evil Inclination puts the big choice in front of you: this world or the next. And even though you have already decided, today, that you value the next world more than this one, tomorrow the Evil Inclination will ask you the same question again, just in a different scenario.
Now, there is something that I have found in coaching. It is a totally different matter to coach a religious Jew than it is to coach one who is non-religious. When someone is suffering from jealousy or anger, or a craving for honor, there are different approaches to helping the person get a grip on himself and meet his challenge. If someone is jealous of another person who has more money, the reason is because he is putting too much value on this world, forgetting that you canâ€™t take the money with you… In order to make you forget this, the Evil Inclination convinces you to give more value to this world than the next. When someone is angry, at that moment he has forgotten that life does not go on forever. The angry person is involved emotionally in the present, angry circumstance, and forgetting that one day, he wonâ€™t be here anymore. When someone is craving for honor, this world is the only world in his mind. The wicked take this world too far. And the righteous just try to â€œget byâ€, making the best of what they have and continuing on. This is a self-help technique that the gentiles donâ€™t use. And it is probably the most powerful one. Because it is reality. It is a reality that the Yetzer Hara camouflages every day, and if you do not study mussar, nothing else will help you reveal it. Our Rabbis teach us not to trust in ourselves till the day we die. For every day, as long as you breathe, your Evil Inclination will tell you to enjoy some more of this world. To have more money then you will ever need.. just to have a good old, merry timeâ€¦ And no one has better disguises at his disposal than your Evil Inclination. It does not make a difference how great a Rabbi you are. Quite the contrary. The Evil inclination invests more time and money to get better costumes, more devious lures just to trick those who keep getting the better of him. The bigger the Rabbi, the bigger the â€œCatchâ€. Even someone on the level of Aharon Hakohen.
I remember the time I went with a group of friends to visit R Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, ztâ€l, in his humble apartment on Panim Meirot street, in the Sorotskin neighborhood of Jerusalem. He was over 90, and I was under 20. What he told us was somewhat similar to what the Chafetz Chaim had told him in Radin, when the Chafetz Chaim was over 80 and Rav Sheinberg was still under 20. The subject came up because one of the group asked Râ€™ Sheinberg to tell us the secret key to growing in Torah and spirituality. The Rav condensed many words of wisdom into three sentences. â€œDo you know what is the difference, between learning in Eretz Yisroel and learning in America? The difference is that in America ×’×©×ž×™×•×ª (materialism) is a greater value than ×¨×•×—× ×™×•×ª (spirituality). This is how to grow: change your values.â€ This is what the Chafetz Chaim had told him when he came from America to learn in Radin. Those words still echo in my ear.
I thought I understood it, then. I thought I got it. But, it seems that every day since, I have to relearn it.