Saturday, January 15, 2005

They didn't announce any sholem zochor in shul on Friday night, so I invited some people over for an impromptu tish to mark the Sfas Emes's 100th yahrzeit. A few Gerrer nigunim and some Glenfiddich never did anyone any harm (well, at least the nigunim never did). I said over the Sfas Emes's last drasha, which he gave on Parshas Vayechi 5645. It's a typical Sfas Emes drasha in many ways but what makes it stunning is the suggestion that the Sfas Emes knew that it was his last drasha.

He darshened on Yakov on his deathbed telling his sons He'asfu ve'agidah lachem. The midrash says shezachu mikan lekrias shema. The Sfas Emes explains that this gathering was an archetypal gathering le-shem shamayim and as such its imprint was to be eternal. Likewise, krias shema is a call for collective testimony to God's presence in the world so that its very essence is of a gathering le-shem shamayim and it too is thus eternal. The Sfas Emes's last drasha echoed Yakov's last drasha: the truth to which we collectively bear witness will last long after we are gone.

His last words were sfas emes tikon la'ad.


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