Saturday, October 27, 2012

Short Story - Prayer for the Dead


Kaddish: Prayer for the Dead

[This story is from one of the many legends found in the Talmud a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, considered second to the Torah.]


Rabbi Akiva was walking through a forest. He saw a man, darkened with coal dust, carrying a heavy load of fire wood on his shoulders and running at a very rapid pace. Rabbi Akiva commanded the man to stop and the man stood for Rabbi Akiva.

"Why are you running with such a heavy load? If you are a slave, I shall free you! If you are poor and must exert yourself to such an inhuman extent, let me give you money and make you wealthy!"

"Please," the man entreated Rabbi Akiva, "Let me continue my work!"

"Are you human or are you from the demons?"

"I am neither a poor man nor a slave. I am a soul that is being punished by collecting huge amounts of fire wood for a giant fire into which I am to be cast."

"Tell me, what was your occupation when you lived in this world?"

The man answered, "I was a tax collector. I took bribes from the rich, and I had the poor executed. Not only that, I had illicit relations with a engaged girl on the holiest day of the year, on Yom Kippur."

Rabbi Akiva inquired, "My son, have you not heard that something from the other worlds that could be done to help you and alleviate your suffering?"

"Please," he cried, "Allow me to resume my work. My task masters will be angry with me and punish me further. They say that I have no way of being redeemed. Had I had a son who would stand up in public and cause others to praise God, then they could release me from this punishment. But I left a wife who was pregnant, who knows if she had a son or daughter? And if he were a boy, who would teach him Torah?"

"What is your name?"

"My name is Akiva, my wife's name is Shosmira, and I was from the town of Elduka."
Rabbi Akiva felt extremely bad because of this soul and he searched from town to town until him came to that very town. He asked in the town, "Where is this man's house?"

The villagers answered in hatred, "May his bones be ground to dust in Hell!"
"Where is this man's wife?"

The villagers answered with bitterness, "May her name and memory be blotted out from this world!"

“Where is this man's child?"

"He is uncircumcised, and no one will circumcise him!"

Rabbi Akiva grabbed the man's son and began to teach him Torah. Rabbi Akiva fasted for forty days and then heard a voice from heaven. "Rabbi Akiva, do you fast for this boy?"

Answered Rabbi Akiva, "Yes!"

Teach him to read and write. Teach him to recite grace after meals, teach him to say 'Shema' and to pray." When the boy shall pray in public, causing the people to praise God's name, then the punishment shall be lifted from this man."

When this happened, the soul of the man came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream.. "You have spared my soul from the punishments of Hell."


The Meaning of Kaddish with a Translation
By Chaim Lazer



Other nice version

This version was found in the “Minor Tractate” of Kallah Rabbasi, 2:9, with additional details filled in from Ohr Zarua, Hilchos Shabbos 50.


Rabbi Akiva once saw (what he thought was) a man struggling with a heavy burden on his shoulders and bemoaning his lot in (what Rabbi Akiva thought was) life. Concerned that this might be an overworked slave deserving to be freed, Rabbi Akiva asked the man what his story was. The oppressed laborer replied that he was the soul of a person who committed every conceivable sin and that if he stopped to talk, he’d get in even more trouble.

The punishment of this particular sinner was to gather wood, which was used to burn him every day. Rabbi Akiva asked if there was any way to free this soul and the deceased replied that the only way was if he had a son who would stand in front of the congregation and say “Barchu es Hashem hamevorah” or “Yisgadal v’yiskadash…,” after which the congregation would reply, “Baruch Hashem hamevorah l’olam voed” or “Yehei shmei rabbah…,” respectively. (These are the prayers of Barchu and Kaddish, in which the leader of the service calls upon the congregation to praise God, which they then do.)

Finally, Rabbi Akiva asked the man who had survived him; the spirit replied that his wife had been pregnant when he died. Rabbi Akiva recorded the name of the deceased, the man’s wife, and his hometown so that he might investigate the matter.

Hurrying to the man’s city, Rabbi Akiva discovered that the deceased was particularly reviled by the townspeople. He had been a corrupt tax collector who took bribes from the rich and oppressed the poor. Among his more notorious deeds, the man had violated a betrothed girl on Yom Kippur! Rabbi Akiva located the widow, who had given birth to a son. So despised was her husband that no one had even circumcised the child. Rabbi Akiva took care of this grievous omission and, when the child was old enough, he taught him Torah and how to daven in shul, including the prayers the man had specified.

As soon as the boy recited the appropriate prayers, his father’s soul was relieved of its harsh punishments. The man’s spirit re-appeared to Rabbi Akiva in a dream to thank the scholar for saving him from the tortures of Gehinnom.


Why Do We Say Kaddish for the Deceased?     
By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz





Roses for Rose - A Love Story



Red roses were her favorites, her name was also Rose.
And every year her husband sent them, tied with pretty bows.
The year he died, the roses were delivered to her door.
The card said, "Be my Valentine," like all the years before.

Each year he sent her roses, and the note would always say,
"I love you even more this year, than last year on this day."
"My love for you will always grow, with every passing year."
She knew this was the last time that the roses would appear.

She thought, he ordered roses in advance before this day.
Her loving husband did not know, that he would pass away.
He always liked to do things early, way before the time.
Then, if he got too busy, everything would work out fine.

She trimmed the stems, and placed them in a very special vase.
Then sat the vase beside the portrait of his smiling face.
She would sit for hours, in her husband's favorite chair.
While staring at his picture, and the roses sitting there.

A year went by, and it was hard to live without her mate,
With loneliness and solitude that had become her fate.
Then, the very hour, as on Valentines before,
The doorbell rang, and there were roses - sitting by her door.

She brought the roses in, and then just looked at them in shock.
Then, went to get the telephone, to call the florist shop.
The owner answered, and she asked him, if he would explain,
Why would someone do this to her, causing her such pain?

"I know your husband passed away, more than a year ago,"
The owner said, "I knew you'd call, and you would want to know."
"The flowers you received today, were paid for in advance."
"Your husband always planned ahead, he left nothing to chance."

"There is a standing order, that I have on file down here,
And he has paid, well in advance, you'll get them every year.
There is another thing that I think you should know,
He wrote a special little card...he did this years ago."

"Then, should ever I find out that he's no longer here,
That's the card...that should be sent, to you the following year."
She thanked him and hung up the phone, her tears now flowing hard.
Her fingers shaking, as she slowly reached to get the card.

Inside the card, she saw that he had written her a note.
Then, as she stared in total silence, this is what he wrote...
"Hello my love, I know it's been a year since I've been gone,
I hope it hasn't been too hard for you to overcome."

"I know it must be lonely, and the pain is very real.
For if it was the other way, I know how I would feel.
The love we shared made everything so beautiful in life.
I loved you more than words can say, you were the perfect wife."

"You were my friend and lover, you fulfilled my every need.
I know it's only been a year, but please try not to grieve.
I want you to be happy, even when you shed your tears.
That is why the roses will be sent to you for years."

"When you get these roses, think of all the happiness
That we had together, and how both of us were blessed.
I have always loved you and I know I always will.
But, my love, you must go on, you have some living still."

"Please...try to find happiness, while living out your days.
I know it is not easy, but I hope you find some ways.
The roses will come every year, and they will only stop,
When your door's not answered when the florist stops to knock."

"He will come five times that day, in case you have gone out.
But after his last visit, he will know without a doubt
To take the roses to the place, where I've instructed him,
And place the roses where we are, together once again."


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