Friday Candle Lighting: 6:54 pm
Shabbat Ends: 7:48 pm
Pain and Gain
“Who is the man who has built a new house and has not yet inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will inaugurate it.” (20:5)
Rashi: “And this thing will pain him.”
Rashi’s comment on the above verse cannot mean that the thought of someone else inaugurating his new home will be extremely painful to him. For in the painful-thoughts department nothing is more painful than the thought of death itself.
The Midrash teaches that when the Romans executed Rabbi Chananya for teaching Torah in public they wrapped him in his Sefer Torah and set it alight. To prolong his agony they packed water-soaked wool around his chest. Rabbi Chananya said, “The parchment is consumed, but the letters fly up in the air.” The Roman executioner was deeply moved by Rabbi Chananya’s holiness and asked, “If I remove the wool from around your heart, will I have a share in the World-to-Come?”
Rabbi Chananya promised him that he would. The Roman then removed the wool, added wood to the fire to curtail Rabbi Chananya’s agony and jumped into the flames and died. A Heavenly voice proclaimed: “Rabbi Chananya and the executioner are about to enter the World-to-Come.” One thought of teshuva (repentance) can undo a life of sin.
And one thought of sin can undo a lifetime of teshuva.
The most important moment in a person’s life is his last moment. At that moment he has the potential to fix a lifetime’s wrongdoing. What a waste to spend that last moment immersed in the cares of this world rather than one’s gaze on eternity.
That’s what Rashi means when he says “and this thing will pain him.“How great will be this man’s pain should he spend his last moments thinking about his real estate, rather than preparing himself to enter the world of truth!