Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Righteous Person Born on that Day

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The Gemora (Kiddushin 72) relates: When Rebbe was about to die, he said, “There is a city Homanya in Bavel, and all of its residents are Ammonites. There is a city Misgarya in Bavel, and all of its residents are mamzeirim. There is a city Birka in Bavel, and there are two brothers who swap their wives with each other. There is a city Birsa Disatya in Bavel, and today its residents have strayed from Hashem. One Shabbos there was an abundance of fish in the pond and they all came to catch the fish. Rabbi Achai the son of Rabbi Yoshiyah excommunicated them, and then they became apostates. There is a city Akra D’Agma in Bavel, and a man named Adda bar Ahavah resides there, who today is sitting in the lap of Avraham (for he was being circumcised that day). Rav Yehudah was born today in Bavel.”

For master taught: When Rabbi Akiva died, Rebbe was born. When Rebbe died, Rav Yehudah was born. When Rav Yehudah died, Rava was born. When Rava died, Rav Ashi was born. This teaches you that a righteous person does not leave this world until a righteous person like him is created. This is as it says: And the sun rises and the sun sets. Before the sun of Eli was extinguished, the sun of Shmuel the Ramasi rose.

The commentators ask: Why is it necessary to be anguished when a righteous person departs from this world? Why, behold, another righteous person was born and will be capable of taking his place?

The Chidah offers several answers:

1) It is not definite that the new righteous person will find himself in the same location as the previous one; it is therefore incumbent on the residents of the city to mourn their loss.
2) Although there will be an eventual replacement for the deceased tzaddik, but it will take some time until he reaches the level of his predecessor. It is for this period of time, when there will be a void of a righteous person, that people are required to mourn for.