Based on Likutey Halakhot, Basar b’Chalav 5:7-8
“The days of Yisrael drew close to dieing; [Yaakov said to Yosef,] ‘I will lie down with my fathers…’ (Genesis 47:29,30); [Yaakov said to Yosef,] ‘behold I am dieing’ (48:21); [Yaakov] passed away (v.31); Yosef said to his brothers, ‘Behold I am dieing’ (50:24); Yosef died at the age of 110…and was placed in a casket” (:26).
Every human being comes to this world in order to make the world a better place by doing good deeds. However, most don’t get it right; they make things worse. This is why they undergo any number of reincarnations and suffer in many different ways. The primary foundation for improving the world is by affiliating oneself with a tzaddik who knows the root of every soul. Such a tzaddik knows how to deal with each soul, while it is alive and when it is dead, in order to fix it and help it to receive the maximum daat (Divine awareness) it can. (This daat is the essential delight of the World to Come.) So it’s a good idea to attach yourself to such a tzaddik while you’re still alive. It’s much harder once you’re dead. (But it’s not
We find that many people fall away from their attachment to the tzaddik. There are even some who for the most of their lifetime were closely connected to the tzaddik, but when they grew old broke their connection and became opponents to the tzaddik—may God save us! The critical part of any episode in life, and of life itself, is the ending. (All’s well that end’s well, as they say.)
As we grow older we should be growing wiser, with an ever more refined spiritual wisdom. Because the older we get, the closer we get to returning to our spiritual root and, ideally, to our ultimate tikkun (rectification). But also, for as long we’re alive we struggle with our evil inclination. The more spiritual wisdom and daat one must attain, the greater one’s struggles. Often one who regresses spiritually in his old age has not sanctified him sufficiently earlier in his life. Therefore, he is unable to receive the spiritual wisdom that comes his way and, as it were, loses his mind.
Sometimes Divine wisdom and daat are sent to us in pleasant packages; sometimes in less-than-pleasant ones. Study of a tzaddik’s teachings and otherwise affiliating with a tzaddik gives us the tools and vessels to receive the wisdom and daat, so that neither the pleasantness nor unpleasantness of the package overwhelms or distracts us.
So, “Don’t trust in yourself until the day you die” (Avot 2:5). “Don’t trust in yourself”—Don’t think you can go it alone; we all need the tzaddik’s advice. “Until the day you die”—to fully absorb the teachings of the tzaddik you have to be willing to “die,” to make sacrifices, even suffer shame and humiliation, in order to maintain your connection with him “until the day you die.”
May God bless us that we live well and wisely, for a long, long time. Amen.
(Next week we’ll talk about birth—I promise!)