erev 29 Kislev 5782 (December 3, 2021)
in memorial: 29 Kislev 5779
on the occasion of my father’s third yahrzeit:
“This world is like a lobby for Olam Haba, the World-to-Come;
prepare yourself in the lobby, so that you may enter the Banquet Hall.”
– Pirkei Avos 4:21
The Jewish Sages envision the reward for a righteous life as a Great Banquet, where at the end of history we will partake of a great feast, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be present. In other words, this life is a test, how we live this life, determines the quality of our place in Olam Haba, the World-to-Come.
My father lived his life with a profound sense of emunah in H’Shem (belief in G-d). This can be demonstrated by a few examples: Years ago, my father would walk six miles to synagogue on Yom Kippur, and he would stay there for the entire day. Many years prior, when he was in the Korean War, on a particular night of fierce fighting in the trenches, he prayed to G-d, that if lived, he would stop smoking on the Sabbath. He lived, and he kept his commitment; he eventually stopped smoking altogether.
My father passed away towards the end of the month of Kislev, when the light reflected from the moon is barely visible. Yet, that day was also the fifth day of Chanukah. If you envision a menorah with the shamosh, the servant candle in the middle, there are four places for candles to the left of the shamash, and four to the right. On the eve of the fifth day of Chanukah, we light five candles. Therefore, that is the first day of Chanukah, in a sense, when there is more light than darkness.
In parashas Vayechi, the narrative begins “vayechi Yaakov” – “and Jacob lived.” Although the passage speaks of his death, the word “vayechi,” meaning “life,” implies “something that exists permanently” – that is the soul that continues to live. As the Sages say, “Jacob lives.” I believe that my father lives, and that after the Tehillas HaMeisim, the Resurrection of the Dead, he will partake of the Great Banquet, that marks the beginning of Olam Haba, the World-to-Come. May we all merit, to also partake of the Great Banquet.