Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reb Naftoli Bochner - יהי זכרך ברוך

A member of our community, R. Naftoli Bochner A’H passed away this Friday night and the levaya was attended by an overflowing crowd. R. Naftoli A’H succumbed to a long and arduous fight with cancer leaving a bereaved family, neighbors and friends. During his touching Hesped (eulogy), R. Sender Epstein quoted a Rambam in Hilchot Aveil 13:12

[יב] כל מי שלא מתאבל כמו שציוו חכמים, הרי זה אכזרי; אלא יפחד וידאג ויפשפש במעשיו, ויחזור בתשובה. ואחד מבני חבורה שמת, תדאג כל החבורה כולה.

Anyone who does not mourn as the Rabbis have ordered is cruel. One should be fearful, worry and audit his deeds [literally: search his actions] and repent. One member of the Chabura that dies, the whole Chabura should worry.

As he was quoting this Halacha, it reminded me of a similar language Rambam uses in Hilchot Ta’aniyot 1:3 where after explaining that praying and fasting when bad things happen is a method of repentance, Rambam says:

אבל אם לא יזעקו, ולא יריעו, אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו, וצרה זו נקרוא נקרית--הרי זו דרך אכזרייות, וגורמת להם להידבק במעשיהם הרעים, ותוסיף הצרה וצרות אחרות

But if they will not cry and blow [trumpets] saying that what happened to us is natural [literally: custom of the world], this trouble just happened to us by chance – this is the path of cruelty. It leads them to remain attached to their bad ways bringing on more trouble.

When bad things happen to us, we are commanded to consider the causes of this trouble having in mind to remedy and prevent its recurrence. Similarly, when a person dies, his contemporaries are reminded that their time is coming closer too. Are they ready to go? Have they accomplished all that they could have? If they do not introspect, they are cruel to themselves. They risk dying without having accomplished all they could and should have. Mourning is to remind the living that their time will come too and time is precious. That explains the preceding Halacha which is the introduction to this one -

אל יתקשה אדם על מתו יתר מדיי--שנאמר "אל תבכו למת, ואל תנודו לו"
, כלומר יתר מדיי: שזה הוא מנהגו של עולם; והמצער עצמו על מנהג העולם, הרי זה טיפש.

A person should not grieve too much for [his] the deceased. As it says, “do not weep for the dead and do not lament for him,” meaning too much, for it is the custom of the world. One who suffers too much for natural events [literally; as is the custom of the world], is a fool.

We as humans grieve even for the inevitable and the irreparable. Like all our emotions, they have a purpose and should be harnessed for constructive goals. Grieving when channeled properly can be turned into an introspective experience for our own self-improvement and betterment. The deceased offers us life through his act of dying, his last act as a person, the ultimate altruistic deed. It is up to us to make it so. I believe that this is the meaning of the term
יהי זכרו ברוך– Baruch means the source of goodness. When we say Baruch Ata Hashem Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz – we are acknowledging that You God are the source for the bread, as You are the One responsible for bringing it out from the earth. Remembering the deceased as the Rabbis commanded us, make him, the deceased, the source of our betterment, the one responsible for it.

Reb Naftoli Bochner - יהי זכרך ברוך.


  1. I am sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. Min Hashamayim Tenuhamu.

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  3. Hi Danish, I love your comments keep them coming.

  4. My father inlaw was a special person. There arent enough words to describe the loss we just had.
    The family has seen over 1000 people who came to be menachem ovel this week we really appreciate it. may we be zoche to the coming of moshiach quickly. For all those intrested I have posted the Bris we made on google video (bris.mpg)