VeAsu Li Mikdash, Ve'Shakhanti Be'Tokham - "Let them make a Mikdash for Me, that I may dwell among them"
Today is Rosh Hodesh Adar. We say that with the coming of Adar we increase our joy. This Adar is a bit different. Of course it's a leap year so we call it Adar Aleph. But this Rosh Hodesh also is the eleventh month yahrzeit of the Sassoon children who were taken from us on Rosh Hodesh Nisan last year. All of us were and are affected by this tragedy.
A few weeks ago a principal in one of the yeshivot – Jewish Day Schools - texted, asking me to explain the word Areyat. An Areyat is a memorial service in the Syrian Sephardic community. We have an Areyat usually at the end of the shiva week. Another at thirty days and a third at the eleventh or twelfth month and sometimes one more in a leap year. I think part of the reasoning may be in giving those who couldn’t make the funeral a chance to come at the end of the Shiva and those who were away for the Shiva can come for the Sheloshim and if you missed all of those, one can still came at the year. Additionally, each year on the yahrzeit some also have an Areyat.
Typically we come to the synagogue where we read the entire book of Psalms, we pray together, give charity and then we hear one or more speeches. The speeches are meant to motivate us to make some positive change in our lives. Finally we end the evening with trays of cookies, fruits and drinks served not to satisfy a physical hunger, but first and foremost so that we can make the various blessings over the food. Our intent in the prayers, the Psalms, the acts of kindness, the charity, the positive changes and the blessings is to give an Aliyah or an uplifting to the soul of the departed.
The rabbis teach us that during the first year after a person passes away, there is a potential for an uplifting of the soul each day. After that the soul is brought to be judged each year on the yahrzeit. The question is asked. Isn't a person judged when they pass? How can a soul incapable of either sinning or fulfilling commandments be judged each year? Which deeds is the judgment based on? The rabbis answer that this court is coming to pass a new judgment based on the fruits of their labors which ripened over the past year.
Every action we do results in a reaction. Sometimes that reaction continues in a long chain like dominoes. One deed affects another, which affects another. We are judged based on those effects.
It can be monumental efforts like building a hospital or a school. Every patient helped and every student who is taught, year after year goes to the credit of the builder. But it can be small things too.
We invite a new neighbor who was never exposed to a Shabbat dinner to our home. The person enjoys it so much that he encouraged his child to go on Birthright. The child returns and wants to know more and takes on the commandments. He marries and raises children who go to Yeshiva. The countless misvot being done are the fruits of one’s labor.
It also works in the opposite direction too. A teacher sending a child onto the wrong path bears responsibility for all those resulting sins and more so, because those sins lead to more sins by others. That child may influence others onto the wrong path and they influence others. Chains can continue for a very long time if not forever.
Some incorrectly call the Kaddish the prayer for the dead. In fact, the Kaddish speaks only about praising the name of G-d. Yet parents want their children to recite kaddish. Why? Again the Rabbis explain that at the moment of a person’s deepest pain; when perhaps he has some complaint against G-d; when he may want to yell at Heaven, he instead accepts Heaven’s judgment and praises G-d. Hashem then looks down in wonder and asks, “who raised this extraordinary child”? And the merits of the Kaddish go onto the parents account.
So as to support the soul being judged each year, we join together in prayers, Psalms, acts of kindness, charity, committing to positive changes, making blessings, and saying kaddish, all to add credits and give an Aliyah or an uplifting to the soul being judged.
But when it comes to these seven special souls, Eliane, Rivka, David, Yehoshua, Moshe, Sarah and Yaakov, I don't believe coming together is an Aliyah for their neshamot.
A riddle is asked in the Zohar on last week's portion. "Who is the beautiful maiden without eyes whose body is concealed and revealed, who comes out in the morning and disappears during the day, who is adorned with ornaments that never were?"
The maiden is the pure unsullied Neshama who cannot be seen.
I believe that these seven holy neshamot are already in a place we call Gan Eden HaElyon - the highest level of heaven. And before each dawn these hidden souls are dressed in a spiritual way and accompany Hashem as he descends to the lower worlds. And with the morning light – the day - they return with Hashem to this higher abode together with the holiest of souls who never were.
What is so amazing is that instead of us doing something to cause an Aliyah of their neshamot, it is the descent in the hours before dawn of these souls with the shechina which causes a spiritual uplifting in us. They are in many ways with us, drawing us higher allowing us the extra strength to pull upwards from our gasmiut- our lowly physicality, from our taavot- lusts, and our gaavah- pride.
To get this assistance, one must tune in to the spiritual side, one must make the effort to as we have said before, and wipe away the mud from the antenna. In these days we should all do our utmost and we pray that the souls of these Seven children will help to raise us spiritually and lead to the coming of the Mashiach, to days of sasson vesimcha - gladness and joy, bimhera beyameynu – Speedily in our days – Amen.
Rabbi David Bibi