Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

Indestructible Roots


Various Rabbis

Sivan 29 5775
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:37)

Gemara: The following is told about that which Shlomo said: "I praise the dead who already died" (Kohelet 4:2). When Israel sinned in the desert, Moshe got up before Hashem and presented several prayers and supplications before Him and was not answered. When he said, "Remember for Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yisrael" (Shemot 32:13), he was immediately answered. Was it not correct what Shlomo said that "I praise the dead who already died"?

Ein Ayah: The foundation of the continuity of Israel rests on the goal of sanctity which emanates through them. A covenant was forged whereby the promotion of that goal would never be totally lost to Israel. Therefore, even the greatest spiritual falls are not enough to destroy the foundation of eternal national life of the people as a whole.
The best way to avoid the collapse of a building is to build it on a strength that is based in the past in a way that is so strong that it cannot be ruined. This makes the building eternal. In terms of our nation, that strength is the merit of the forefathers.
If the special element of Israel was based on their innate characteristics of sanctity, Torah, and fear of heaven, in the present, then, Heaven forbid, that could weaken in times when their deterioration is great. Since Hashem wanted to make us an eternal nation, he built our foundations on the strength of the covenant of the forefathers, as it says "From the tops of cliffs I will see them, and from hills I will view them" (Bamidbar 23:9). This refers to the patriarchs and matriarchs (Midrash Rabba ad loc.). The nation was not built not on a multitude of people, like other nations, because that would by necessity mean that it is based on good people and bad people. Rather our nation was built on foundations of goodness and sanctity of the highest degree (the forefathers), so that that which they left as an inheritance to their offspring can never fully collapse. Even if it falls, it has a basis from which to be rejuvenated. This is a promise that no storm in the world can undo.
The aforementioned stability is possible only when the pillar of strength is from the past. Therefore, the gemara applies the pasuk "I praise the dead who already died." Hashem does not call His name on the righteous within their lifetime, for throughout the life of any person, including the righteous, he has free choice to go in a positive or a negative direction. Therefore, the most secure promise can only be based on the merit of someone who is dead, whose final level was sealed when he died. This great past serves to protect and raise the nation from the falls in their level that they may experience.
At the great spiritual fall of the Golden Calf, when the nation reached its lowest level, from the perspective of the present, they lost almost all of their spiritual acquisitions. They were unable to stand and, were Heaven forbid, fit to be destroyed. However, their past merit, from the sanctity of their forefathers that was incorporated within them and could not be lost, saved them. That is why Moshe was only answered positively when he mentioned that merit, as anything having to do with status of those who were still alive would have had insufficient value. That is why one can praise the dead when they die, at which point their spiritual legacy is guaranteed. That goes beyond even the spiritually accomplished live person, who is still in the process of working on his moral level. Certainty comes only from the past, and this is what brings strength to the present and the future.

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