Cheating Death... For a Bit Longer by Michael Winner/5/17/2019 As you know, every year I go to Yerushaliyim to make matzah. And each year, it’s with the same group of people. There have been certainly changes of membership, but there is still a core group of guys. One of the people there is around my age, good sense of humour, nice guy… though, I don’t know much about him though, since I only see him once a year. Well… I learned something this week about him. No, he’s not a former criminal. No, he’s not an undercover missionary. No, he doesn’t have three wives that don’t know about each other. I WISH it was one of those. It would have been much easier for me to digest. He turns out he’s a well-known dayan (rabbinic judge) in one of the most religious neighborhoods in Yerushaliyim. Also, after reading something he wrote, it’s clear that he is highly knowledgeable in non-Torah manners, without a university education. Did I mention he’s my age? (Not a trace of white hair either). I HATE people like that. Why couldn’t he have been a hardened criminal or something… “And you shall not profane My Holy Name” (Vayikra 25:32) Rabbeinu Yona in his famous “Shaarei Tshuva” writes, “even though for the sin of Chillul Hashem (profaning Hashem’s name), there is no atonement, except through death, nonetheless, [the learning of] Torah also gains atonement. For every holiday, the Torah lists, amongst the special korbonos brought, “one goat as a sin-offering”, yet on Shavous, no such thing is mentioned. The Gemara (Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShanah 4:8) writes that the reason for this is as follows: “Hashem said to the Jewish people, ‘Since you accepted upon yourselves the yoke of Torah, I will consider it as if you never sinned all the days of your lives’”. So, here we have the ultimate sin. One whose atonement can be affected via death and … learning Torah? Rav Pincus brings in the Mishna in Avos (6:1) to qualify what type of Torah has this amazing power, “somebody who is involved with Torah with pure intentions”. So, what super-duper powers does learning Torah (purely) have to overrule death itself? It’s rather simple, says Rav Pincus: When a person learns properly, and more importantly, he incorporates that learning into his life, he becomes a different person. How many stories have we heard of criminals who took it upon themselves to change their lives and not only did so, but also changed the lives of others? Those people are completely different than the people who they were before. So too, when somebody learns properly and takes that learning and acts on it, he becomes a different person, who has no need for death to atone for them. He’s a different being completely, with a whole new life awaiting him. Have a great Shabbos!