Throughout the literature of Chassidus, discussions of man's divine service are often enriched by a glance at the concept of Resurrection. Here is a brief sampling.
The Rebbe Rashab once taught:
"The avodah of serving G-d according to Chassidus comprises all possible levels.... The spiritual level represented by a corpse does not need much elaboration. At the same time, thank G-d, spiritual avodah also comprises a metaphorical revival of the dead. A corpse is cold - and there is nothing as frigid as natural intellect, mortal intellect. Accordingly, when one's natural intelligence comprehends a G-dly concept, and the spiritual emotions latent in the intellect [such as one's dormant love of G-d] are enthused and moved by this intellectual pleasure, that is a true revival of the dead."
The Rebbe once explained:
All the rewards of the time to come are a direct result of one's present actions. Moreover, since
"the reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah," every particular reward resembles its corresponding avodah. Thus, for example, the reward for the mitzvah of charity is wealth. Expounding on the non-literal level of derush, the Sages found a hint of this in the verse,
rag, rag (lit., "you shall surely tithe"). Noting the similarity between the root rag ("to tithe") and the root rag ("to grow rich"), the Sages teach,
"Tithe in order to grow rich."
At any rate, since every reward resembles its antecedent avodah, and since the ultimate future reward will be granted in the era of the Resurrection, it follows that even today there must be an element of Resurrection in our avodah that will be rewarded by Resurrection in the future.
This element of Resurrection may be sought in the following way. When a thinking Jew is involved in worldly things which are physical and moreover material, he realizes that they are not everlasting. Even a person who really desires any physical object realizes (even during the moments that he is enjoying it) that it does not last forever, and that there will come a time when even he himself will no longer enjoy it. It could take an hour, a month, a year, ten years, or even more - but at the end of the day he realizes that such pleasure is only momentary; such rewards do not last forever.
Contemplating this, he comes to understand that since the object of any physical desire is limited by time it cannot be termed true life or living.
A Jew's purpose is to inject an everlasting dimension into his physical life by connecting with G-d, Who in His infinity transcends time and place. When a Jew connects a physical object with G-d, he is in fact injecting it with real life and creating something that is everlasting.
Taking a dead object, i.e., something that is purely physical and limited by time and space, and infusing it with a breath of eternal life, - this is true Resurrection.
From this perspective we are able to appreciate the depth of a well-known teaching of the Sages: "The righteous even after death are called alive...; the wicked even during their lifetime are considered dead." What does this mean? The wicked during their lifetime attach importance to the physical, which is limited and short-lived - in a word, dead. The righteous attach importance to the spiritual. They are thus alive even after death, since they charged their physical life with an eternal dimension.
A Jew's task is therefore to resurrect - to transform a fellow Jew who even during his lifetime is not alive into one of the righteous who even after death are alive.
is a condensation of a talk
in which the Rebbe drew lessons from one of the most dramatic narratives in all of the prophetic Books - the Prophet Yechezkel's vision of the Valley of Dry Bones.
This passage is read in the synagogue as the Haftorah for Shabbos Chol HaMoed Pesach.
The Prophet relates his experience in these words: "The hand of G-d was upon me, and He carried me out in the spirit of G-d, and He set me down in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. He made me pass by them around and around, and behold, there were very many over the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And He said to me: 'Son of man, can these bones come alive?' And I said: 'L-rd G-d, You know.' And He said to me: 'Prophesy concerning these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, listen to the word of G-d! Thus said the L-rd G-d to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live; and I will lay sinews upon you, and bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath within you, and you shall live - and you shall know that I am G-d.' "
Certainly the allegorical meaning of this experience was clear to the Prophet Yechezkel, and to all of his fellow exiles who sat by the waters of Babylon, and wept when they remembered Zion. Here was a clear assurance from G-d: He would gather together their stricken remnants, lead them home to Eretz Yisrael, and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash in Jerusalem.
Yet the vision yearns to utter more than a symbolic messages. As the words of G-d conveyed to us through His Prophets are eternal, this narrative must also speak to us today. And indeed, it is clearly a message addressed to Jews who are sensitive to the plight of those of their brethren who have lost the lifeblood of Yiddishkeit, the values and lifestyle of the Torah. It is a message that urges us to accelerate the vital work of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and disseminating the wellsprings of Chassidus.
There are those who argue that when Jews are on the outside, so to speak, spiritually no more than dry bones, there is no use speaking to them; one should wait until they have been brought within the fold, and have been clothed in flesh, sinews and a living spirit. Only then, so it is argued, can one teach these dry bones the word of G-d. There are even those who rationalize that publicly addressing these forgotten bones who lie forlorn on the valley floor is dangerously innovative. "We must walk in the footsteps of our revered predecessors," they argue; "why should we begin to deal with dry bones?"
The answer to these seekers of pious excuses is simple: The question of which footsteps of our predecessors are to be emulated, must be determined by consulting the Torah. And here, explicit before us in one of the 24 Books of the Written Torah, is the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. Precisely this is where to seek the real footsteps of our fathers that we should faithfully follow.
Yechezkel uttered his prophecies in the Diaspora. This particular prophecy was spoken in a valley, a place that is lowly and far away. The valley was filled with bones - of Jews who had not carried out G-d's will. The bones were strewn about and forsaken; indeed, G-d Himself testified that they were very dry. Nevertheless, the Prophet Yechezkel tells us that G-d commanded him to speak to them: "And He said to me: 'Son of man..., prophesy concerning these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, listen to the word of G-d!' "
This is a lesson that must penetrate our hearts: If there are Jews who are void of the lifeblood and invigorating spirit of Judaism, who appear to be nothing more than dry bones, we must speak to them! For after all, they are "children who have been taken captive among the gentiles." Their environments have deprived them of the means of discovering even the alef-beis of Judaism. Though in their present state they have neither spirit, nor sinews, neither nerves, nor flesh, nor skin, G-d tells us: Your heart has feelings, so awaken its innate sympathy for your Jewish brothers. You are a son of man, so imagine the pity your Father must feel for them. Go and tell those dry bones: "Listen to the word of G-d!" While they are still in their present condition, reach out and give them the word of G-d.
In response to this call, a person might limit himself to focusing his efforts on a single skeleton. Yechezkel therefore tells us that he was commanded to address a valley that was filled with bones. We must step out from our closed precincts into the center of town, into the streets of New York, and call out: "O dry bones, listen to the word of G-d!" We must not limit our outreach work to places in which there are more living, vibrant Jews than dry bones: we must address our message to all those vast valleys whose sole inhabitants are dry bones.
This duty is closely connected to another obligation:
"Do not stand still when your neighbor's life is in danger" (lit., "Do not stand still over your neighbor's blood"). To these words Rashi adds, "...witnessing his death when you are able to save him; for example, if he is drowning in a river or being attacked by a wild beast or robbers."
But these are not the only examples. When the Torah states that "the blood is [associated with] the soul," it is telling us that a Jew's true lifeblood is his spiritual life, his Torah and mitzvos. The above verse - "Do not stand still over your neighbor's blood" - thus sounds a broader warning: Do not stand idly by if your neighbor is in spiritual danger. If his life-sustaining nutrients, his Torah and mitzvos, are ebbing away before your very eyes, you cannot look the other way. Instead of waiting until you are obliged to rejuvenate dry bones, step forward and reconnect his transfusion before he dehydrates.
Consider the first example that Rashi offers. Your neighbor may be drowning in a river of raging waters - a familiar chassidic metaphor for over-involvement in the turbulent torrents of materiality; he may be struggling to remain afloat in the surging ocean of his own corporeality. In such a situation the Torah admonishes us not to stand by idly: we can throw him a lifeline of Torah and Yiddishkeit. And if you ask, "Why me?" - the answer is that G-d would not show you such a phenomenon just to cause you sorrow: the very fact that Divine Providence ordained that you are there to see him drowning is itself proof enough that you can help him.
The Rebbe Maharash used to say: "The world says that if you can't crawl under an obstacle, then you have to clamber over it. And I say: Right from the outset, leap over it!"
This bold and optimistic approach to divine service disregards conventional procedures and defies all inhibitions. It lifts the individual into a higher realm in his own divine service and streamlines his efforts at disseminating Torah and Yiddishkeit.
When one is confronted with the sight of a brother Jew who is - spiritually speaking - in a life-threatening situation, the appropriate response is to leap over all obstacles, without fearing the (metaphorical) wild beasts or robbers. This is why the above verse concludes, "I am G-d," for the ruler of all the world's rivers and wild beasts and robbers is G-d Himself. When a Jew sets out to save his fellow, he should fear nothing on earth: G-d is by his side and will grant him success.
There is another meaning to this concluding phrase, "I am G-d." To these words Rashi adds, "...Who may be relied upon to reward and to punish." When the Evil Inclination, whose Yiddish nickname is der kluginker ("the sly fellow"), artfully pours cold water on man's efforts, he needs to be reminded that G-d grants reward. As we read in Pirkei Avos,
"Know... Who your Employer is that will pay you the reward of your labor"; and again,
"Your Employer may be relied upon to pay you the reward for your labor."
Sometimes one needs to remind one's Yetzer HaRa of the punishment that awaits those who obstruct a Jew's divine service, who seek to sidetrack people who set out to save their fellow Jews by disseminating the knowledge and practice of Yiddishkeit. Among these people are the shluchim, the emissaries who carry out the holy mission of the Rebbe Rayatz by disseminating the wellsprings of Chassidus to the furthest outposts of Jewry. His agents (and "an agent may in turn appoint an agent") should remember his directive: Disseminating Yiddishkeit is not a hiddur mitzvah, a spiritual luxury that technically may be dispensed with. It is quite literally a matter of life and death. As the Rebbe Rayatz declared: Do not stand still over your neighbor's blood; you can save him! And if you find him already in a state of dry bones, then bring him back to life!
Above all, if a formidable obstacle looms up on the horizon and threatens one's efforts at spreading Yiddishkeit and Chassidus, one should recall the motto of the Rebbe Maharash: "Right from the outset, leap over it!"
In the prophecy of Yechezkel, G-d promises that such efforts will bear fruit, that they will bring dry bones back to life:
"Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live; and I will lay sinews upon you, and bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath within you, and you shall live - and you shall know that I am G-d.' "
For indeed, "I prophesied as I was commanded; ... and I looked, and behold, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them over,... and the breath of life came into them: they came alive and stood up on their feet, an exceedingly great multitude."
This passage gives us the potential and the guarantee - that when we carry out our mission by addressing the word of G-d to the dry bones all around us, through disseminating Torah and Yiddishkeit and Chassidus, we will succeed in bringing the dry bones back to life as "an exceedingly great multitude." Together with them we will greet Mashiach, for "I will bring you to the Land of Israel... and I will place you in your land," and "I will sprinkle upon you purifying waters." This task awaits Mashiach - may he come in our time!
May G-d bless all outreach projects with success. As to those whose missions take them to distant places, let them remember that as the physical distance [from here] is increased, the spiritual closeness is intensified. And carrying out the above-mentioned directives with ahavas Yisrael, with a sincere love of every fellow Jew as we are commanded in the Torah - "Love your neighbor as yourself" - will bring about the revelation of G-d's innate love for every Jew. In this spirit of liberation may we go out to greet Mashiach with the true and complete Redemption, speedily in our days.
The Rebbe Rayatz once related:
"The Alter Rebbe was asked by his Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch, a question which he in turn had been asked by his Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov: 'What do you remember?'
On this the Rebbe Rayatz commented: "This question has given life - a veritable Resurrection - to generations of chassidim. Resurrection means long life, true life. Death denotes interruption, whereas long life is life without interruption - and that is true life: no lack of life, but more than life. In avodah this means that not only is one alive, but one also animates others.
"In summary: True life is holiness, and holiness is infinite."
In the primordial stages of creation, so the Kabbalah reveals, numerous sparks of Divinity fell as exiles into the realms of uncleanliness. There each spark is obliged to wait - until some individual somewhere chooses to make proper use of the particular fragment of materiality in which that dormant spark is embedded. By doing so he liberates and elevates it; he gives it renewed life.
In the literature of Chassidus, this animation of seemingly lifeless sparks is often termed resurrection.
Three times a day in the Shemoneh Esreh we say,
"Blessed are You, G-d, Who revives the dead." The Mitteler Rebbe explains
that this blessing refers not only to the ultimate Resurrection, but also to the present resurrection of those souls which, having sinned, now renew their connection with the G-d of Life through teshuvah. While in the state of sin they are termed "dead"; as the Sages teach,
"The wicked even during their lifetimes are called dead." When, however, they return in teshuvah, they come alive.
Every day, thanks to G-d's mercy, is a time for teshuvah; hence every single day comprises an element of Resurrection.
On the same day
on which the Rebbe delivered the above sichah on the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, he opened a discussion of the Messianic era by quoting the words of Rambam at the conclusion of his Mishneh Torah:
"One should not entertain the notion that in the era of Mashiach any element of the natural order will be nullified, or that there will be an innovation in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern. Although Yeshayahu states,
'The wolf shall dwell with the lamb...,' these [words] are an allegory and a riddle... Our Sages taught:
'There will be no difference between the current age and the era of Mashiach except [our emancipation from] subjugation to the [gentile] kingdoms.' "
Now, is it not surprising that Rambam rules that in the Messianic era there will be no miracles? After all, one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith enunciated by Rambam himself is belief in the Resurrection, which is surely a major miracle.
We may therefore assume that there will be two periods within the Messianic era - an initial period that abides by the natural order, followed by a second period which will be miraculous. When Rambam quotes the statement in the Gemara that in the Messianic era there will be no deviation from the natural order, he is referring to the first period. Hence, even if there is no change at that time, as long as our people have been freed of foreign subjugation, the Messianic era has been ushered in. Rambam adds, however, that since no man knows exactly how all these events will unfold,443 the possibility remains that miracles will occur immediately and the prophetic promise that "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb" is not a parable but literal.
There will be no need to wait and see whether this first period will be miraculous or otherwise, for Chassidus rules that the prophecy is literal and there will be immediate changes in the natural order.
The above explanation sheds light on the following anomaly. The Haftorah for Shabbos Chol HaMoed Pesach, in the middle of the festival, is the prophecy of Yechezkel regarding the resurrection in the Valley of Dry Bones. The Haftorah of Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of the festival, is the prophecy of Yeshayahu about the coming of Mashiach. Why is the expected order reversed?
The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya that the ultimate fulfillment of the purpose of creation - that G-d should have an abode in the lower worlds - is attained by our current actions and spiritual labors. Our current actions should therefore foreshadow the Messianic state.
This kind of avodah is expressed in two ways:
- The thrust of every Jew's avodah is geulah - Redemption; its goal is to redeem the G-dly spark within himself and his surroundings.
- Every Jew's avodah should be steered by the attitude that there are no obstacles, which will indeed be the case in the Messianic era.
This second point carries extra weight if we realize that the Messianic era will be miraculous. This implies that our current avodah toward bringing about the Messianic Redemption must also be pursued with supernatural strength.
This is the lesson we learn from the fact that the Haftorah of Resurrection precedes the Haftorah of Messianic Redemption: Our entire avodah toward bringing about the Redemption should be undertaken in a miraculous and supernatural matter. Rather than seeing obstacles, we should announce with "words that come from the heart [and] enter the heart" that Mashiach is coming: the time of our Redemption has arrived.
of the Sages of the Gemara once declared to his disciples:
"The least among you can resurrect the dead."
It is well known how this statement applied to the disciples of the Alter Rebbe. From this one may understand that when [a chassid] is at the level of a "disciple of Moshe" [i.e., standing in humble deference to his Rebbe], then even "the least among you [and with these words the Rebbe pointed at the chassidim whom he was then addressing] can resurrect the dead."
We are speaking not only of resurrection that relates to the spiritual avodah of oneself or of others; we are speaking even of the physical realm. There is a well-known story that illustrates the teaching that one should "think good and things will be good": through positive thinking one can perform an act of resurrection. (In fact, "thinking good" not only transforms a negative to a positive state: it even preempts the negative state before it occurs.)
And if there can be resurrection in the physical realm, how much more so in the spiritual realm, in which everyone has the ability to revive the "dead" in himself - for nothing can stand in the way of willpower.
Resurrection is called for not only when one has reached a situation comparable to death, but also, as the Sages say, "One who falls in level is called dead." So, too, one whose level of avodah falls short of his full spiritual potential is also called "dead".
Consider the case of a certain individual who was born and raised among chassidim, who studied in the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah, who was privileged to be given directives by the Rebbe [Rayatz], who used to deliver chassidic discourses, and so on - but who then made money and now argues that his mission in life is to be an industrious Zevulun, a financial supporter of Torah institutions. If so, he argues, he no longer has the time to study Chassidus and "daven with avodah" (i.e., to meditate at length over the depths that Chassidus reveals in the prayers). Such an individual has fallen in level.
The same applies to a person who has remained a studious Yissachar461 and has also taught many students, but who argues that he has no time for the self-refining labors of avodah. He, too, has fallen in level.
This applies especially to the exertion one invests in one's daily prayers. The Alter Rebbe rules in the Shulchan Aruch that before prayer one must reflect for an hour to concentrate one's thoughts. (As the Mishnah teaches, "the early chassidim used to spend one hour" in preparation for prayer.) At the very least, one should pray in the manner described in Kuntreis HaAvodah and Kuntreis HaTefillah.
One must ask oneself honestly: When was the last time one prayed with earnest preparation? I am not going to cause embarrassment by addressing this question to anyone personally - but everyone should look into the mirror (like those who religiously follow the local custom of checking their tie in the mirror before they go out) and realize whom the above words are aimed at.
- (Back to text) HaYom Yom, entry for 11 Sivan.
- (Back to text) At the farbrengen of Yud Shvat, 5723 .
- (Back to text) Avos 4:2.
- (Back to text) Devarim 14:22.
- (Back to text) Taanis 9a.
- (Back to text) Berachos 18a-b.
- (Back to text) Until the subheading, "Resurrection: Sharing Uninterrupted Life."
- (Back to text) On Shabbos Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim, 5746 . A complete translation of this talk has been published by Sichos In English as an essay entitled, "Dry Bones - Before and After." In Reshimos, Booklet #7, p. 10, the Rebbe explains why it was specifically Yechezkel who revived the Dry Bones.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel 37:1-15.
- (Back to text) Tur Orach Chaim, sec. 490, explains in the name of Rav Hai Gaon that this Haftorah is read during Pesach since the Resurrection will take place in the month of Nissan.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel 37:1-6.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 92b and Rashi there.
- (Back to text) Cf. Shabbos 68b.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 19:16, and Rashi there.
- (Back to text) Devarim 12:23.
- (Back to text) In the Heb./Yid. original the last sentence reads, Lechat'chilah ariber!
- (Back to text) 2:14.
- (Back to text) Ibid. 2:16.
- (Back to text) Kiddushin 41a.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel 37:5-6.
- (Back to text) Ibid. 7-8, 10.
- (Back to text) Ibid. 12, 14.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel 36:25.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 19:18.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaMaamarim 5710, p. 262.
- (Back to text) See, for example, Torah Or, p. 9a, and Torah Or on Megillas Esther, p. 117c.
- (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 52.
- (Back to text) Derech Chaim, p. 95.
- (Back to text) Berachos 18b.
- (Back to text) Shabbos Parshas Acharei, 5746 .
- (Back to text) Hilchos Melachim 12:1-2.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 11:6.
- (Back to text) Berachos 34b.
- (Back to text) See also Likkutei Sichos for Parshas Bechukosai, 5745 , sec. 9.
- (Back to text) For a full discussion by the Rebbe on this subject, see I Await His Coming Every Day (prepared by Sichos In English; published by Kehot, N.Y., 1991), p. 51ff.
- (Back to text) Iggeres Techiyas HaMeisim, ch. 6. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 417. According to this view, when Rambam in Mishneh Torah defines the Messianic era merely in terms of emancipation from foreign subjugation, he is only giving the minimum halachic criteria for that era; he is not ruling out the possibility of its being miraculous.
- (Back to text) See Shaar HaEmunah (end); Or HaTorah - Nach (Vol. III), p. 633b; Sefer HaMaamarim 5637 , chs. 17, 94.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel, ch. 37.
- (Back to text) The Tur (Orach Chaim, sec. 490) explains that since the ultimate Resurrection will take place in the month of Nissan, we read a Haftorah on a related subject on Pesach.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 10:32ff.
- (Back to text) Ch. 37.
- (Back to text) See chs. 2 and 3 above.
- (Back to text) Sefer HaYashar by Rabbeinu Tam, sec. 13; Shelah, p. 69a.
- (Back to text) This section summarizes a talk delivered by the Rebbe on Shabbos Parshas Shemini, 5748 .
- (Back to text) Avodah Zarah 10b.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Rayatz once said (Sefer HaSichos 5703 ): "One may likewise apply this dictum to the disciples of R. Hillel [of Paritch - a renowned chassid]. Physical death is the absence of vitality, a state of frigidity. Spiritual death, too, is frigidity; one's prayers are cold; one's observance of the mitzvos is cold; even one's singing and dancing is cold. R. Hillel educated his students to have warm hearts; even the least sophisticated of them could resurrect - i.e., could warm up - their cold fellow Jews."
- (Back to text) Retold by the Rebbe Rayatz in Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. I, p. 317 (and in Eng. translation: Vol. II, p. 28):
One of the mashpi'im in the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah was Reb Michael.[...] When he was a young man one of his children became so dangerously ill that his doctors said nothing could be done. He went straight off and told a group of his fellow chassidim of his grievous situation. They lent him strength, urged him not to despair because without a doubt the Almighty would be merciful, and advised him to set out at once for Lubavitch [to see the Rebbe Rashab].
Hearing this he broke out into tears. He would dearly love to go to Lubavitch, he said, but the doctors had said that now it was only a matter of hours; what was the point of setting out on such a journey?
One of the elder chassidim turned to him sternly: "Doesn't the Gemara tell us explicitly, 'Let no man preclude the possibility of mercy'? So for sure the advocating angels will persuade the Almighty to wait with His final decision until you reach the Rebbe!"
Reb Michael thereupon set out on foot for Lubavitch accompanied by a chassidisher friend, a tailor by trade, and once or twice they were able to shorten the journey by taking cheap rides with passing wagons. And as soon as they arrived there, Reb Michael had the good fortune to be admitted to yechidus at once.
"As I walked into the Rebbe's study," Reb Michael himself related, "and handed the Rebbe the pidyon nefesh with the child's name written on it, the thought flashed through my mind: 'Who knows what's doing with the child? Didn't the doctors say it was only a matter of a couple of hours?' And I wept bitterly.
"The Rebbe read the note and said: 'Don't cry. Tracht gut - vet zain gut! Think good and things will be good. Don't lament! You'll celebrate the bar-mitzvahs of your grandchildren.'
"Whenever hard times came," concluded Reb Michael - for in later years he was to suffer anguish in the upbringing of his children, "I would always picture to myself the Rebbe's holy face, and recall those holy words that he told me at yechidus - and things would work out well for me."
- (Back to text) Zohar III, 135b; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 211.
- (Back to text) See Rashi on Devarim 33:18.
- (Back to text) Berachos 5:1.
- (Back to text) Essays on the chassidic way in prayer by the Rebbe Rashab. The latter has been published in Eng. translation (by Kehot, N.Y.) under the title, Tract on Prayer.