At the levaya of the Sfas Emes, his son the Imrei Emes said to his brother: “Our father had a long life even though he passed away at the early age of fifty-eight”. His explanation was that he packed in every day with Torah, mitzvos and ruchyniyus which made them long. Rav Avraham Carmel brought a story from the Ben Ish Chai which will help us understand the deep message that lies here. A new Rav was appointed in a small village. One day he visits the cemetery out of curiosity to perhaps discover some gadol who was laid to rest there. As he read the first inscription on a random tombstone he saw that the departed lived only for 22 years 3 months and 6 days. That is young, he thought to himself and also strange that the inscription should include months and days. The next tombstone he saw was almost a repeat of the first, the deceased was 25 years 7 months and 14 days old. He started to become frightened as he began thinking to himself that maybe this town brings on a premature death to its inhabitants. However, when he came back to the village he saw that there were people middle age and up walking around. When he asked for an explanation to this mystery he was told that the custom in their town was when a boy or girl became bar mitzvah age they were given a ledger. They were instructed to calculate and record every evening the total amount of hours and minutes of the day that had been spent on Torah and mitzvos.
When one passed away the chevrah kaddisha would ask the family for the deceased’s ledger. This would be given to a bookkeeper who totaled all the time recorded and that total was inscribed on the matzaivah. This custom was based on what we say in Maariv כי הם חיינו ואורך ימינו . When we die and our neshamos ascend to heaven and accounting takes place. Only time spent on ruchniyus will count as merit. How many restaurants, exotic vacations, and safaris we took, how many houses and leased cars we had, how many times did our team win the Super Bowl, how many band players did we have at our chasunah, will all be irrelevant information to the heavenly Bais Din. The only thing that matters upstairs is כי הם חיינו ואורך ימינו, for only time spent on eternity activities describes real living. Torah by the Sfas Emes was not merely a life long pursuit but rather a long life experience every individual day he lived.
Dovid Hamelech asks Hashem in Tehillim (39,5) ה’ הודיעני ה’ קצי ומדת ימי מה היא אדעה מה חדל אני.. According to Chazal (Shabbos 32) he was asking to know which day of the week he would die. We would like to suggest another interpretation to this request of Dovid Hamelech based upon the above two stories. The passuk says he wanted to know his end קץ, the date of his death. If so why would Dovid ask further for the measure of his days which is already included in the day of death? We can say that every day of one’s life can be measured how “long” it was. It is not simple to make such an honest cheshbon and count the spiritual hours and minutes with which he gained eternity status throughout the day. Dovid, therefore, requested that Hashem should aid him in his self-introspection to let him know to calculate what percentage of the day was actually true living. What degree of spiritual growth and tikkun hamidos did he acquire each day and which days was he חדל (stop) he pushed the pause button. Also included in the interpretation of the final words of the passuk is ואדעה מה חדל אני that together with Hashem’s help he will come to recognize what restrained the real “me”, my great potential, from being actualized.
On Rosh Hashanah when Hashem seeks our merits, the nature of our days are judged whether they were infused with life or not. There are three serious events that occur on Rosh Hashanah. One is the coronation of Hashem as our Melech and we daven for this Kingdom to be revealed amongst the nations of the world. Second, there is a judgment and דין of our merits and demerits to determine what our outcome for the next year will be. Thirdly, Rosh Hashanah is the first two days of Aseres Yemai Teshuva and therefore it is a day of teshuvah. It is important to take note that the acronym of מדת represents these three events מלך דין תשובה. This means the following, that as we stand before Hashem on Rosh Hashana we must realize באשר הוא שם that the day of Rosh Hashanah itself is measured to what degree we as His subjects accept upon ourselves Hashem as our King fully committed to follow His command and fulfill his wishes. Or maybe deep in our hearts we have secretively stashed away part of Hashem’s royalty for ourselves which when push comes to shove, we will oppose His Kingship and decrees ch”v.
This week’s parsha begins with the passuk אתם נצבים היום כולכם לפני ה’ אלקיכם the Zohar interprets the word היום to refer to Rosh Hashanah. The Torah is telling us that we must stand before Hashem on this day כולכם every part of us with not even one limb that refuses to accept Hashem’s Kingdom.
Not only does the judgment of Rosh Hashanah concern the productivity of days in the past year but also it measures the depth and sincerity of your coronation of Hashem as your King. Therefore it is also a day of Teshuvah for one cannot accept Hashem as a Melech without committing not to repeat the shortcomings of last year.
We recite in the Haggadah of Pesach the story of Taanaim who were sitting in Bnei Brak deeply involved in the mitzvah of retelling the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, until their talmidim entered in the morning and announced it has come time to recite the Shmah of שחרית. The question arises why did the talmidim feel it necessary to add the word שחרית? What other mitzvah of Shmah would exist if not for that? We can esoterically explain this episode to refer to the passuk למען תזכור את יום צאתך מארץ מצרים כל ימי חייך that the nature of the day of Yetzias Mitzrayim must be signed on every day of your life. This conveys that just like that day when Hashem and His Shechinah were revealed in Mitzrayim and you realized that you are attached and grounded in a world of eternity beyond nature, as the word פסח equals the gematriah of נצח, so must every day of your life take on the same identity of eternity through your fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos. There exists different segments of time such as second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year. People say that time is money but in truth, time is synonymous with life. We suggest that the word שחרית alludes to the entire spectrum of time that must be registered and deposited in the reservoir of a world of Netzach. The letters of שחרית are the acronym שעה, שנה, שבוע, שמיטה, חלק, חודש, רגע, יום, יובל . The letter ת‘ symbolizes Olam Habah for Shabbos which is מעין עוה”ב was created with the letter ת. Therefore the word שחרית symbolizes all the portions of time which one raised and elevated them to the higher plane of the Next World by infusing these fleeting moments with the kedusha of Torah and Mitzvos.
The meforshim learn that even the first word of the Torah alludes to the creation of time since time can only be functional if there is a beginning בראשית. We want to add to this thought that also hinted in the word בראשית are the varying segments of the two categories of time, the finite time of Olam Hazeh and the infinite time of Olam Habah. The letters of בראש”י describe the parts of time in this world. The letter shin alludes to שבוע שנה שעה שמיטה . The letters of יב of בראשית hint to the period of a month of which there are twelve which correspond to the twelve heavenly constellations. The exception to this is in a leap year which is hinted in the letter א which stands apart from the rest. The reason is that the 13th month which is hinted in the acronym of the letters יא”ב –of בראשית and spell ירח אדר ב, does not correspond to any constellation. The letter ר conveys רגע. The letter א can also hint to the time period of a second for it is the smallest numerical number of all the other letters and it represents the very beginning of a segment of time represented in a second. The letter ת symbolizes that all these segments of times must be infused with eternity and become elongated.
This avodah of elevation of days to make them part of a long life is applicable to all levels of Yidden who are all included in the obligation to elongate their days. This is also hinted in the letters of שחרית which is the acronym of the Four Sons of the Haggadah שאינו יודע חכם רשע תם.
The talmidim of these Tannaim were relating to them that their avodah this night of Pesach was so elevated that its effect reached the pinnacle of lasting throughout the year. The present, past, and future segments of time were infused with the acceptance of the yoke of shamayim which conveys that they will be elevated to kedusha. הגיע זמן קריאת שמע של שחרית
To remember Yetzias Mitzrayim in all the days of one’s life is to infuse them with holiness and spirit, for only this achievement during one’s lifetime is what counts in the next. Sefirah follows Pesach in order to show that it is Torah and mitzvos alone that count by Hashem and not one’s materialistic acquisitions unless they serve to foster more ruchniyus and closeness to Hashem.
The Ten days of Teshuvah encourage one to inspect the “middas yamai” to measure them to know the weak spots and to fix them, thereby improving your relationship with Hashem. The word תמיד is an extension of the concept of מדת rectification, except that it possesses an added letter yud which represents the Aseres Yemai Teshuva. By spending ten days reflecting how to strengthen your relationship with Hashem, one is able and equipped to attain the madraigah שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד at all times and merit long days.
זכרנו לחיים מלך חפץ בחיים וכתבנו בספר החיים למענך אלקים חיים