1. In one of the final passages of the tractate of Kesubos, the Talmud relates:

When Rebbi (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) became ill, Rav Chiyah visited him and found him crying, he told him, “Rebbi, why are you crying? Behold we have learnt, ‘If a person dies in the midst of laughter, it is a positive omen for him. If he dies amidst tears, it is a negative omen for him. If he dies with his face upward, it is a positive omen.... If he dies with his face to the people, it is a positive omen.... If he dies on Friday, it is a positive omen for him1 .... If he dies from a stomach disorder, it is a positive omen for him, for most of the righteous die from stomach disorders.’ ” [Rebbi] replied: “I am crying for the sake of the Torah and its mitzvos.

The question arises: Why did Rav Chiyah quote the entire teaching to him? Seemingly, if he wanted to inform Rebbi of the adverse effects of his tears, it would have been sufficient to mention that concept alone.

It can be explained that Rav Chiyah wanted to offset the negative influence of Rebbi’s crying, by mentioning the positive omens associated with his passing, that he died of a stomach disorder and that he died on Friday.

Nevertheless, additional explanation is necessary. Rebbi explained that he was crying “for the sake of the Torah and its mitzvos,” i.e., that after his death, he would no longer be able to continue their observance. If so, how can that difficulty be resolved because he died on a certain day of the week or for a certain reason.

The latter difficulty is reinforced by a Talmudic passage concerning King David’s death. It is explained that he desired to die on Friday, because he appreciated the positive dimension associated of dying on that day. G‑d, however, refused, telling him that “One day when you sit occupied in Torah study is preferable to Me more than a thousand burnt offerings which your son Shlomo will offer before Me on the altar.” Thus we see that the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos outweighs the advantage of dying on Friday.

There is another difficulty in the passage from Kesubos. The Torah is described as “the Torah of life,” and puts a great stress on the advantage of life as reflected by the command “And you shall live in them,” interpreted by our Sages to mean, “ ’And you shall live in them,’ and not ‘die because of them.’ ” Accordingly, since death on any day of the week — or as a result of any condition — is the opposite of life, how can it be a positive omen?

In resolution, it can be explained that there is a unique advantage to death on Friday which compensates for the negation of the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. This can be explained by going to the very source of the issue, the events of the first Friday, the day when man was created. On that day, G‑d caused Adam to sleep and removed from him a rib from which Chavah was created.

Our Sages describe sleep as “one sixtieth of death” and like death, it reflects a withdrawal of life-energy from the body. Nevertheless, this sleep led to added life, the creation of Chavah and through her, to the revelation of the infinite potential within man which is reflected in the power of conception. Although man’s life is limited, through conceiving children, an infinite dimension of life is expressed.

According to the Sages of the Kabbalah, a parallel concept takes place every Rosh HaShanah, the anniversary of Adam’s creation. Rosh HaShanah is the time of dormita d’Za’er Anpin in order to allow for the nesirah. To explain these mystic terms: Za’er Anpin refers to the middos (emotions), of the realm of Atzilus, a quality which in metaphoric terms is described as masculine. Malchus refers to the attribute of Kingship, a quality which in metaphoric terms is described as feminine. At the outset, Za’er Anpin and Malchus were positioned back to back, i.e., there was no potential for union and transmission of influence.

This was reflected in Adam’s person; he contained both male and female aspects but since, they were included in one body, there was no potential for unity between them. Hence, there was the need for a separation to be made. Nevertheless, because of the painful dimensions of this separation, it was necessary for Adam to sleep. While he slept, these two dimensions were separated and unity became possible.

Similarly, in the spiritual realms, the nesirah, “the division,” which separates Za’er Anpin and Malchus is ultimately positive in intent, for it grants the potential for unity. It is, nevertheless, a severe experience and requires the dormita d’Za’er Anpin, that the male dimension of G‑dliness “sleep” as it were. Ultimately, however, it is through this experience that the potential for the transmission of infinite Divine-energy is generated.

Each Friday, in preparation for the union of Za’er Anpin and Malchus on Shabbos, this pattern is repeated. Similarly, in an ultimate sense, in preparation for “the day which is all rest and Shabbos for life-everlasting,” the Era of the Redemption, this pattern is also repeated2 and reflected in the difficulties experienced by the Jews in the final throes of the exile.

The sages of the Kabbalah were known to reflect the abovementioned spiritual qualities in their conduct. For example, Rav Hillel of Paritch would lie down to sleep on Friday, because in the spiritual realms, it is a time of sleep above. During sleep, the soul “draws down energy from the source of life,” and has the potential to express that life through rededicated efforts in Torah study in connection with the commencement of Shabbos.3

Based on the above, we can understand the positive nature of dying — sleep in macrocosm — on Friday. Just as in regard to sleep, death’s ultimate purpose is a renewal of life. There are two dimensions to this concept:

a) In regard to Yaakov our Patriarch, our Sages state, “Yaakov did not die... just as his descendants are alive, he is alive.” Similarly, after a person’s death, the positive activities which his children perform (and “students are considered like children”) show how his influence is still alive and present. Indeed, the infinite dimensions of a person’s life are revealed after his passing, for then it becomes obvious that his life is not confined merely to his physical person. b) The ultimate reflection of life which will come in the Era of the Redemption when the souls of the previous generations are resurrected.4

Thus, when a person dies on Friday, it is emphasized that his death is associated with the two dimensions of infinite life mentioned above. And this will outweigh, in a certain aspect the negative aspects associated with death, the negation of the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. For the righteous will be resurrected before the Jewish people as a whole in the era when our people will still be obligated in the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos and will observe the mitzvos on the higher plane of spirituality that will characterize the Era of the Redemption.

Furthermore, the positive factor communicated by the Torah, “the Torah of kindness” and “the Torah of life,” that there is a positive factor to dying on Friday which will be reflected in infinite life, can be understood in a non-literal sense, i.e., as involving our spiritual service (for there have been sufficient individuals who have fused the spiritual and the literal interpretations together). And this will lead to fruitful and continued life from which we will proceed, without interruption, to the unlimited life of the Era of the Resurrection.

(Afterwards, the Rebbe Shlita mentioned the passing of Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Hecht, one of the shluchim of the Previous Rebbe and of the Rebbe Shlita, who died on the preceding Friday. The Rebbe explained the significance of his personal names and his family name.)