“Today, when we don’t have the Parah Adumah [the red cow] to burn in fire, Hashem established that the atonement for the Jewish people should be through the passing of Tzaddikim who learned the holy Torah for its own sake, until they themselves merited and turned into Torah. This is [also] that the Tzaddik accepts upon himself that his name should be scorned and lowly in the mouths of people.”
Awesome words of Rav Yoram Abergel ZY”A from the important pamphlet, “Mesilot El HaNefesh” on Parashas Chukas.
“Hashem and Israel opened with song. Since through the well [of Miriam] this miracle became known and publicized, Israel sang praise over the well. The remarkable thing was that, in this song, Hashem’s Name wasn’t mentioned at all.
“In all the [other] songs [such as the Song of the Sea], Hashem’s Name is mentioned several times; but why in the Song of the Well it is not?
“Rashi brings an allegory of a king who had an important minister who he loved very much because he would give himself over completely to what the king said with all his strength. Once, the ministers arranged an important feast and invited the king. The king said, ‘If my beloved [minister] is there, I’m there; if not, I’m not going.’
“The feast is allegorically the Song of the Well, and the beloved of the king is Moshe Rabbeinu, and since they didn’t mention in the song the name of Moshe, Hashem didn’t agree that His Name should be mentioned — because only where the beloved of the King goes, also the King Himself goes.
Death — Not necessarily lying in the dust
“Rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrote (Likutey Moharan 260): ‘The name [aka. reputation] is the soul, an aspect of “The soul of the animal is its name” (Breisheis 2:19). And there is in this aspect self-sacrifice.
“When the Tzaddik sacrifices his name willingly and consciously, everyone talks against him, and fabricates lies about him which never even entered his mind [to do], and his blood is actually spilled from this, and he does this intentionally. This is counted for him as actual self-sacrifice, because the name [reputation] is the soul. And when he loses his name [reputation], he has spilling of blood from this, and he saves the Jewish people through this from what was fitting to come upon them, G-d forbid. Because through sacrificing his name [reputation], which is his soul, he saves them!”
“And Rabbi Nachman reveals to us, that just as there is self-sacrifice which actually happens, that is, handing over his body to death for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name, so too there is the aspect of sacrificing one’s name, which is also like real self-sacrifice!
“That is, through the Tzaddik accepting upon himself that his name should be disgraced in the mouths of people, this is also counted as actual self-sacrifice; because within the name of a person rests his soul root, and when people talk about his name, [associating it with] everything forbidden, and humiliating him in public, this is considered actually giving up ones life for Hashem; and through this, he sweetens the decrees from the the souls of the Jewish people.
“Really, in many aspects, sacrificing one’s name for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name is more difficult than handing over one’s body to be actually killed, because it’s possible to kill the body only once, and after that his soul ascends to its root on high and delights in the radiance of the Divine Presence. However, with sacrificing one’s name, a person can suffer long years of scorn and spilling his blood; and every time, his blood is spilled anew and he feels terrible and enormous suffering.
“Also we see with our own senses that regarding a person who is stabbed with a sword, everyone wants to have mercy on him and help him in every way that’s possible. However, the disgrace and the spilling of blood this no one pays attention to — only Hashem Yisbarach alone. And there is no one in the world who can help him at all — therefore, extremely awful and unbearable suffering is tied to this.
“The Tzaddik accepts all of this upon himself to atone for the souls of the Jewish people and to save them from evil decrees, G-d forbid — and this is considered actual self-sacrifice.
“Today, when we don’t have the Parah Adumah to burn in fire, Hashem established that the Jewish people are atoned for in two ways:
- The burning of Torah [scrolls] and included in this is the burning of holy books, as we have seen happened numerous times throughout history.
- The death of Tzaddikim who studied Torah for its own sake until they merited themselves to become Torah.
“As mentioned previously, the death of Tzaddikim can be through actually death in its simple meaning, or it can be losing one’s reputation — that the Tzaddik accepts upon himself that his name should be disgraced and lowly in the mouths of people.
“And from this, it’s understood why Israel didn’t mention the name of Moshe in the Song of the Well, because this is the aspect of sacrificing ones name, through the loss of his name it’s considered for him as if he died in this parasha…
“From this, we learn the gravity of the sin of speaking against any talmid chacham (Torah scholar), because perhaps this talmid chacham sacrificed his name willingly in order to sweeten decrees from the Jewish people.
“If this warning was relevant throughout the generations, all the more so is it relevant in our generation, when the mind is weak, and the strength of the soul is limited — and we don’t know what a Tzaddik looks like. Therefore, in order to save [us from] ruining our lives, it’s upon us to put a muzzle to our mouths, and to not ‘express an opinion’, and to not become involved in any controversy, to fulfill the words of the prophet:
“The wise at that time will be silent” (Amos 5:13).
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