Friday, December 14, 2007

Rebbe and the Laundryman

The Gemora (Kesuvos 103a) records: On the day that Rebbe died, a Heavenly voice went forth and announced: “Whoever has been present at the death of Rebbe is destined for the life of the World to Come.” A certain laundryman who used to come before Rebbe every day, failed to come on that day. When he heard this (the announcement), he went up upon a roof, jumped to the ground and died. A Heavenly voice came forth and announced: “That laundryman also is destined for the life of the World to Come.”

The commentators ask: Who permitted him to commit suicide; it is evident from the Gemora that this laundryman was a wise man and a Torah scholar?

Ben Yehoyadah answers: This roof was not high off the ground and his intention was to fall on his feet. He did not wish to kill himself. His plan was to injure his feet that it should serve as an atonement for not attending Rebbe’s funeral procession. Heaven turned his plans around and he fell backwards, breaking his neck and bringing about his immediate death.

The Rama Mipano in his sefer Gilgulei Neshomos writes that Rebbe was the reincarnation of Avraham Avinu and the laundryman was the gilgul of Lavan. A laundryman whitens clothes as the name Lavan connotes. This was Lavan’s rectification.

He also says, along with many other commentators that Rebbe was a reincarnation of Yaakov Avinu and that is why the Gemora relates that Rebbe came back to life even after his death; this is because we know that Yaakov did not die.


Batya said...

Yaakov died, and his sons brought him to Hebron to be buried.

Avromi said...

Thank you, Batya; your question is discussed by many commentators.

Rabbeinu Bachya says that it means that his soul hovered over his body.

Toldos Yitzchak says that it means that he remained with somewhat of a body even though his primary body was buried.

Others have other deep explanations.

Batya said...

A neighbor once used the phrase "died live or died dead." He meant that those who left descendents "died live," and those who didn't "died dead."
Does that fit what you mean?

Mich said...

It does not actually say that Yaakov died, see Rashi's commentary on Bereshit 49:33. Prof Avraham Elkayam at Bar Ilan had a parasha commentary on this in 1996: see his summary here.

Avromi said...

Actually, this is discussed in the Gemora Taanis 5b, where the Gemora asks the question that has been asked here: How can it be said that Yaakov died, didn't they bury and eulogize him in Mitzrayim?