Friday, May 20, 2022

A Mantle Passed On

Hadar kibluha, with joy and with love. And then, in immediate proximity, indescribable loss and pain.

In one moment, revelry throughout a nation engaged in the joy of rediscovering the glory that crowns us, and in the next, mourning throughout that nation suddenly bereft of its crowning glory.

This year, on Purim, we accepted once more the mantle sewn exclusively for us – Torah Hakedosha and the joy its sacred connection brings – and we lost the man on whose shoulders that mantle so perfectly fit, as if sewn exclusively for him.

It had to be this way.

Rav Chaim was Am Yisroel’s crown, worn by each one of us with reverence, fear, and love. He crossed all party lines, united us all in the kingdom of Man Malki Rabbonon, a kingdom nourished solely from the eternal blessing that sets our nation apart.

Boruch asher nosan Torah le’amo Yisroel.

The stairway leading to his home has become etched in our minds, his direct gaze ingrained in our hearts. A simple book-lined room where one man studied alone, and yet it somehow had the space to house the hearts of an entire people. The pain of each Jew had a place on Rav Chaim’s table, and his pithy blessings had an acronym pliant enough to fit into each supplicant’s soul.

We felt connected there, on Rechov Rashbam, but have we ever wondered why?

What was it about Rabbon Shel Yisroel that so uplifted, that gave us the menucha we all so desperately seek, that gave us the clarity to make our emunah concrete?

In the last few years and in the way of the times in which we live, we were inundated by clips, videos, and stories. Fleeting images, condensed to feed the hunger of our wandering minds, a taste of the higher world to which Rav Chaim belonged but without the obligation to make it our own.

The mofsim, the tzaddik gozer v’Hakadosh Boruch Hu mekayeim, the supernatural that felt so natural in his presence. All pure expressions of holiness. But maybe we were too focused on the zoche l’devorim harbeh instead of the nearly one hundred years of unceasing limud haTorah that spawned it.

Those wonders are now taken from our midst. They belonged to him alone, a reward for the exalted life he led and lived.

But the truth that he furnished for an entire generation, the breathtaking depth of the Torah unfurled in its entirety, belongs to us all, and belongs to us forever.

The Sar HaTorah, a reflection of the beauty of what we all have deep inside our own selves. His joy was a familiar one. It is one we know well, the joy we feel when we clear our heads and completely immerse in devar Hashem, when we swim unfettered in the rechavah minei yam. Those moments of dveikus are where his mantle was shared by the constituents he so selflessly served. It is a depth we are able to reach maybe once a year, and the place he resided every minute of his life.

His life was our generation’s greatest gift. A testament to the eternal promise of lo yomush living inside each son of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. A finger pointed to us from On High for close to a century, shining a spotlight on what we are here for, and what it is that we are supposed to be doing.

Chazu bonai chavivai – This is what I mean, this is what it means, this is what it needs to mean to all of you.”

The joy of knowing, of really knowing, the purity of becoming one with Torah and He Who gave it. In a world where it has become so difficult to latch on to the only thing that matters, we had a living example of what the Jewish heart desires most.

That was the greatest miracle he ever wrought, and that is what we remember, what we need to remember. Rav Chaim was a constant manifestation of the beauty brought forth in our own neshamos during the moments we are privileged to experience true dveikus baTorah. Therein lies the secret of the unbroken connection he shared with every single Jew. He reflected the deepest part of ourselves, a model of what is possible for human beings armed with Torah to achieve.

And that gift lives forever. It is attainable. To each of us, on our level.

Besoch ami anochi yosheves.

Rav Chaim was Klal Yisroel.

We connected to his majesty so deeply, because we all have a cheilek in our neshomah that shines exactly that way.

Purim is the revelation of the true light of this world, that Torah is the only place where real miracles are found. And exactly then, upon reaching the levels of ecstasy reserved for hadar kibluha, we were suddenly torn from the purest expression of that miracle that we have ever known.

Perhaps, Hakadosh Boruch Hu, in His infinite mercy, prepared us. Only on the heels of such a day could we possibly be prepared to take on the mission now resting on our orphaned shoulders.

Vayashleich adarto eilov.

The royal mantle of Torah, worn so faithfully on the shoulders of the greatest among us. And now passed on to the nation that hung onto his every word, the nation that connected to truth through his incandescent soul.

In a generation so filled with confusion, we saw that our deepest dreams can still be fulfilled, that our most central prayer can still be answered in full.

Venihiyeh anachnu, vetze’etza’einu, vetze’etza’ei amcha bais Yisroel, kulanu yodei Shemecha velomdei Sorasecha lishmah.

As it was given on Har Sinai, as we saw on Rechov Rashbam, and with which we will greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu bemeheira beyomeinu. Amein.

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