I am nearing the end of the eleven months for which I am saying Kaddish and leading the services in memory of my father of blessed memory. I read a story that gave me pause to reflect on the significance of always having in mind to be near a Minyan so that I can properly honor my father’s memory.
A man lost a parent after a long and debilitating illness which had taken up a lot of his time. After his parent passed away he made sure to make it to Shul each morning and evening to recite Kaddish.
The man’s wife, recognizing that her husband really needed a break, planned a three day get-away so he could rest up. When they got to their destination, the man took out his phone and googled for the closest Minyan. The results came up that the closest Shul was an hour away!
He was in a quandary. Should he forfeit reciting the Kaddish for the next few days by praying alone? Should he return home or should he make the hour-long trip each way, twice a day – in the morning and evening?
After thinking about it, he decided to stay in his vacation spot and travel to Shul, fully recognizing that it would certainly impede on his much-needed vacation.
When the man returned home, he had an audience with the great Sage Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv o.b.m. and he shared the dilemma that he had and what he did at the end.
Rabbi Elyashiv told him the following, “You should know that your parent’s soul received great comfort and uplift from the dedication that you had to forgo large chunks of time from your vacation to recite the Kaddish.
Rabbi Elyashiv didn’t stop there. He continued with saying something amazing; “Because you showed such dedication to your parent’s memory by traveling and giving up of your time, your devotion is not only taken into consideration while you actually showed your commitment; rather, from now on, each time you go to Shul and recite Kaddish – even if it is at a convenient time for you – it is as if you traveled long hours and gave up time of your own – since you displayed how important and sacred memorializing your parent is to you!”
When I read this I said to myself, Wow! What an amazing insight! Then I thought further and figured that Rabbi Elyashiv’s notion can apply to any Mitzvah. Whenever we uphold or perform a Mitzvah with great sacrifice, we are displaying how important and significant the Mitzvah is to us. Thus, when we perform that same Mitzvah when it is relatively easy, the devoted energy that we showed when the Mitzvah was difficult and tough to be done, is compounded and tags along each time we observe that Mitzvah!
Well, we were away for a few days this week, and the hotel we were staying at was over twenty minutes away from a Shul. In between Mincha and Maariv a layman got up to speak in the Rabbi’s absence, and said a most appropriate idea, perfect for these introspective days of the month of Elul.
In the Parsha, the Torah tells us, “A man is likened to the tree of the field.” Commentaries offer numerous explanations. This man offered the following. Mankind, along with other creations and elements, are subject to the laws of gravity which keep us attached to the earth. Our world has many distractions, with pursuits and ideologies which have ‘gravitational pull’ drawing us towards them and taking our focus away from G-d Above.
Trees and plant life are unique, for although they emerge from and are attached to the ground, they rise and stand in the direction of the heavens. They ostensibly, ‘defy gravitational pull’ as they rise toward the Heavens. The Torah tells us that man should take a lesson from the tree of the field and resist the trends and live our lives in the most upwardly enriched spiritual direction possible!