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Jewish mystics reveal spiritual insights regarding the concept of a yahrzeit.

3:2 A Book of Remembrance

3:2 A Book of Remembrance

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3:2 A Book of Remembrance
Jewish mystics reveal spiritual insights regarding the concept of a yahrzeit.

"Then those who revered G‑d spoke with one another, and G‑d hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who revered the G‑d and who esteemed His name." (Avot 3:2)

At every subsequent anniversary of the day of death, he is thus judged again….

The above text hints at the concept of a "yahrzeit". The reason for the widespread practice of observing a yahrzeit on the anniversary of the death of one's father and mother, is that on the day of the death, the spirit of the father or the mother is judged (in the heavenly court of justice) if he should ascend to the upper, supernal world. Originally, before he ascends to the upper world, he is judged only on the very lightest matters (in his heavenly account). Then, at every yahrzeit, at every subsequent anniversary of the day of death, he is thus judged again, so as to elevate the spirit to a yet higher level; and then he is judged for very severe, serious matters that he failed to observe (in his lifetime).

For this reason a person fasts and gives charity when he observes a yahrzeit - in order to raise the spirit of his father or mother to a higher level (in the heavenly realm). This is because a son can bring a father merit, as we learn in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 104).

Now, if a spirit has already been cleansed and purified of every singly flaw, etc. so that there is nothing for which it can yet be judged, there is a difficulty. It is impossible to elevate it to a higher level if it is not put on trial first; and this spirit is absolutely pure and clear. Then it is indeed impossible to have it elevated in the heavenly realm - unless that parent's merit and good deeds, which he did in his lifetime, are mentioned and spoken of. Then, if this is done, it can ascend to a higher level.

Righteous men of piety constitute the vehicle that brings knowledge of Divinity into the world….

Hence, this is what the verse "Then those who revered G‑d spoke with one another…" signifies: it intimates that one person speaks to another about "those who revered G‑d", mentioning their good deeds that they did while they were alive. The continuation, "…And G‑d hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who revered G‑d", denotes that when those who revered G‑d (in their lifetime) are mentioned before G‑d, by the telling and recounting of their good deeds, they are then indeed recalled before G‑d, and they gain elevation to a higher level through this.

"And of those who esteemed His name" indicates that they themselves, the people who "spoke with one another" about "those who revered G‑d", telling of their good deeds and their practices and ways in the worship of G‑d - they themselves are called "those who esteemed His name".

For righteous men of piety constitute the vehicle (that brings knowledge of Divinity into the world), as we read in the Midrash (Bereishit Rabba, 47; Zohar, Pinchas). And those who thus "esteem His name" are equally remembered before G‑d, because they have brought about the further ascent of the spirits of the tzadikim in the heavenly realm.

[Reprinted from Pri Chaim, 5, excerpted from "Baal Shem Tov on Pirkei Avot"]

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov [“Master of the Good Name”], 1698–1760. A unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the chassidic movement, and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He passed away on the festival of Shavuot in 1760. He wrote no books, although many contain his teachings. (Also referred to as “the BeShT,” from an acronym of Baal Shem Tov.)
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