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Tzaddikim die on the day they were born, meaning that their death is an elevation of the higher levels of the soul, that [the soul] disrobes from the bodily levush sak [garments of skin] and enclothes in the spiritual chaluka d’Rabbanan [garments of light] to enter into supernal worlds.
Likutei Sichos, vol. 5, p. 86


This is why tzaddikim are called alive after their passing, because they are in fact truly alive, no longer limited by being enclothed in a lowly body of dust. Their true and eternal life begins when they shed the garment (the “body”) of this world.



Due to a [tzaddik’s] actions and great level he will merit that he will not die ever…He will merit that his soul will exist in his body forever…and when the time comes to pass away and to separate from the world he won’t need to undergo an interruption and to die, but rather his body will return to a spiritual state…and this refers to those called “bnei aliyah” [“those who have achieved elevation”].
Ma’areches HaElokus, ch. 8

This is hinted at in the statement that “tzaddikim die on the day they were born”. This statement is telling us that the tzaddik’s “birth” in the World to Come appears as his “death” in this world—his soul exchanges the “garments of skin” for the “garments of light”. As he appears to have died in this world, he has actually been born in the higher world. Of course this is not really death at all (except the way that it appears to fleshly eyes.)


The Rebbe brings out this connection in the discourse Padah b’Sholom14 (published for distribution in 5751, the year “Nun Alef”). In that discourse, the Rebbe explains how the Mitteler Rebbe’s Hillula (9 Kislev, when he passed away) serves as a preparation for his day of Geulah (10 Kislev, the day on which, one year prior, he had been released from Russian prison). In the Rebbe’s words:

…the greatness of the elevation of the Mitteler Rebbe’s day of Geulah [10 Kislev]…is due to the fact that the preceding day is the Hillula of the Mitteler Rebbe…the day of 9 Kislev, the Hillula, is the eve of the day of Geulah…which comes after the preparation of the Avodah of the Hillula…
Maamorim Melukatim 5, pp. 86, 90

In other words, the one leads to the other: first the Hillula, then the Geulah! From this we see that after the tzaddik has completed all matters of Avodah, he must then shed the fleshly body of this world in order to experience Geulah. Thus, the Histalkus of tzaddikim becomes a Hillula, a day of celebration since the day they “died” is really the day they are “born” into true, eternal life (regardless of the date of birth, which only in rare cases coincides on the calendar, as the Rebbe mentions).

[…]The Midrash Rabba states, “’good’—this is the angel of life, ‘very good’—this is the angel of death”. Why is the angel of death “very good”? Because the Histalkus of tzaddikim is the completion of everything they did in their life in this world. It only appears to our fleshly eyes to resemble “death”. But, in truth, when the completed soul departs from the “skin of the snake” after it has been emptied of holy sparks, a great elevation occurs—to the level of the Resurrection of the Dead.

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One of the fundamental concepts found in Torah is that the body by itself is a lifeless entity, called domem, something inanimate and lifeless. It is dead in the sense that it does not sense anything. All of the bodily senses—the sense of sight, of hearing, of touch, etc.—are present only when the body is enlivened by the soul within. We see this from the fact that a dead body will not respond to pain or other sensory input; it is only when the soul is in the body that the eyes see, the ears hear, the flesh feels, etc. Indeed, this concept is widely known and is not a unique insight of Chassidus. In the common conception there are only two general categories: the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. The physical body is lifeless, the spirit within has life. However, Pnimiyus Hatorah, the inner Torah, comes to open our eyes to see greater detail, beyond the over-simplified notion that “there is something spiritual inside”.

Pnimiyus Hatorah explains that the body that we see in this world is merely a material garment and not even truly a body at all. R’ Chayim Vital writes that even the souls of the greatest tzaddikim “when they descend to this world it is impossible for them to stand in it except with this material garment.”10 It is stated in Avodas Hakodesh that “The lower entity compared to the higher is like a body and a garment, and the higher entity is like a neshoma to it…it disrobes and enclothes according to the place where it is serving.”11 So it comes out that the body of man is not the body of this world at all. The body of this world is a temporary garment which conceals the true body which is beneath it. Thus, it is stated in Zohar:

At the time they descend below they are garbed in the garment of this world…. There is a garment that is visible to all, and the fools see man in a garment which appears beautiful, yet they don’t look any further—they think that this garment is a body and they think that the body is a neshoma. (Zohar, B’haaloscha, 152a)

We can explain this distinction between garment, body, and neshoma as follows:

“They think the garment is a body”—this refers to the material body which appears to our eyes. We think it is a body, but this is a borrowed term. It is really a garment.

“They think that the body is a neshoma”—this refers to the “inner man” called the Tzelem, the Intellectual Soul (which itself is the higher aspect of the Natural Soul12). It seems like the neshoma which gives life to the material body, but in truth this soul itself is really a body, quite distinct from the G-dly neshoma which is blown into man.

The neshoma gives life to the exterior garment (the outer man) via the inner body , the Natural Soul. The garment, what we view as the body, is something dead and lifeless, the result of the sin of Adam Harishon:

The sin of Adam Harishon caused exile and klipa to surround the nefesh by dressing in this dead body of flesh, this lowly dust. What was a clean and pure body is now enclothed in klipos, the skin of the snake…how much more will be added after the body sheds its lowliness and its exile once and for all. (Chesed L’Avraham, 1:5)

Thus we find, that the Mitteler Rebbe describes the subject of “all flesh will see” as “the vision of the eye of the Natural Soul in physicality.”13 Not the fleshly eye, but the power of seeing possessed by the soul. Refining the Natural soul is identical with refining the material of the body, since this does not mean the fleshly, external body, but rather “the refinement of the bodily matter (חומר הגופני) of human intellect…the refinement of the material of the Natural Soul.”13 Similarly, the Rebbe makes it clear that the “flesh” that will in the future see G-dliness is the refined Animal Soul:

We will reach ultimate perfection of the process of refinement of the Animal Soul—and then the prophecy will be fulfilled “and the glory of Hashem will be revealed and all flesh together will see, etc.”, that even the “flesh” (the Animal Soul) will see G-dliness with sensory vision. (Sicha Parshas Re’eh, 5742, siman 6)

* * *

The 4 Yesodos from klipa are the aspect of the world that we see, physicality that does not exist forever. As stated in the gemara27, “this world exists for 6,000 years, and then one of desolation”. Explains the Rebbe Rashab: “’One of desolation’ means that in the 7th millennium it will be desolate and empty from physicality.”28

This can be understood in light of what we have learned above: the physical aspect of the world will pass away, but the Divine vitality within it will continue to exist and in fact be elevated: “in truth what is stated ‘one [millennium] of desolation’ is not really disappearance, but rather elevation to a higher level, and all that will be lost is the physicality. This does not mean that they will be nullified completely…[for the Divine vitality which] keeps them in existence now is unchanging.”29 The klipa aspect of the world will end, but the truth of the world endures eternally.

Interesting to note that the gemara there asks what will become of the tzaddikim at the end of 6,000 years. The gemara answers that the Holy One will make wings for them—which recalls the wings of Elisha Baal Knafayim and his “pure body”, and which hints at the pure, refined physical body of the time to come. The Rebbe Rashab explains: “the Holy One makes for them wings, which means their elevation will bring them to the aspect of light”30, which can be understood from the words of the Tzemach Tzedek, stating that “the body before the sin was a holy, refined, clean body, and called ‘garments of light’ .”31

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After the klipa (the “spirit of impurity”) will be removed, we will have the same world, only on a completely different level. Because Man and the world will be refined and elevated, on a completely different level, the mitzvos we will do will be completely different as well: Following the sin and the expulsion from Gan Eden our mitzvos only serve “to refine the physical evil…[However,] the ultimate form of mitzvos is only in the Days of Moshiach, because then it will be like before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge…In the future the mitzvos of sacrifices will be in a higher way, and so, too, all the mitzvos in the future will be [performed] in a completely different manner.” In a way that is free from the constraints of the physicality of today.

This is because before Moshiach comes and ushers in the true and complete Redemption, our mitzvos are only signs. As the Alter Rebbe writes: “the physical aspect of mitzvos as they are enclothed in physical matters are a ‘sign’…because the physical mitzvos are hints to the spiritual aspect that is in them.”

To illustrate this by way of an analogy: an object in this physical world is like a bank check. A bank check is written on paper which is inherently worthless. But because the check represents money which the bank has in its vault, and they will give you that money when you cash the check, therefore the check is now (temporarily) something quite valuable. Not because of the paper it is written on (which remains worthless), but because of the value that is “concealed” within it. The check represents the physical item, and the value it possesses—the cash which can be obtained through the check—represents the holy sparks which are in every physical object.

Just as a check exists only so that we will cash it so we can receive its hidden value and afterwards the check reverts to being worthless paper, so it is with the physical world: because sparks of holiness fell into the klipos, those objects now have value. But the goal is to extract the sparks, “cash the check”, and after the sparks have been extracted from it, the physical is as worthless as a cancelled check. The check is important because without it we cannot get the money, the physical is important because without it we cannot extract the holy sparks. But after the check is cashed, it is once again nothing but worthless paper; and after the physical object is refined and all the sparks of holiness have been extracted and then elevated, it is once again nothing but lowly klipa without any vitality of its own.
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For 40 years the Rebbe gave blessings, advice and instruction through the “garment of this world”, which means a physical body as we know it.  The Rebbe’s hashpa’a was given via letters, which the Rebbe dictated from his office; through sichos given at farbrengens;  through dollars placed in a person’s physical hand.  The spiritual, G-dly flow of sustenance was enclothed in the garment of the natural world.  Although a Jew knows that the Rebbe’s blessing and prophetic insights come from the Rebbe’s inner, spiritual aspect, nonetheless the “gentile within us” was strengthened from the fact that it was always garbed in nature—the Rebbe’s actions in the physical world.  Seeing the Rebbe “in the flesh” nurtured the  perspective of the “gentile within” that the natural world—what he could see of the Rebbe—is (at least partially) the source of the sustenance.

However, when the “Sun stood still” on 3 Tammuz 5754, meaning that the external, visible aspect of the Moshe Rabbeinu of the generation ceased its movement, the “gentile within” can no longer see a physical source for the blessings and guidance.  But the flow of sustenance to Israel continues, meaning that the blessings and advice and guidance do not cease, as attested to by the numerous ways the Rebbe continues to guide us today, whether through the concepts imparted via sichos and letters, or through answers received via Igros Kodesh, or in dreams, or through other means.  In this way, the perspective of the “gentile within”—which claims that the material, external existence is significant—is defeated by the perspective of the G-dly soul, which is that the material world and nature is simply a garment, an external covering for the flow of sustenance which is really coming from Hashem.

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There is a common misperception that the Resurrection of the Dead means the return of the soul to the body as we recognize it externally.  The popular image of cemeteries filled with revived corpses climbing out of coffins dressed in their burial shrouds, dusting off the dirt of the grave is based on a simplified reading of the words of our sages; but after having merited the revelations of Chassidus, our conception of “rising from the dust” must reflect a deeper understanding.

To begin with, although we think that those buried in the cemetery are the ones dwelling in the dust, the deeper meaning of the concept is that it actually applies to us—we who are alive in this world right now.  To explain:  the soul’s work is accomplished over numerous lifetimes, called gilgulim.  The soul is reincarnated into different bodies over different lifetimes in order to complete the task of refining sparks.  This world, including the body of man in this world, was created from the dust.  As the verse states: “you are from the dust and to the dust you shall return”.  “Arise and sing those who dwell in the dust.”

Thus it is that we, who are presently in a state of gilgul (from the root gilul, meaning “dung”), are the ones who are in the dust, meaning a body that was created from the dust of this world.  “Returning to the dust” really refers to the cycle of reincarnation: “the verse ‘to the dust you shall return’ is the secret of gilgul, that a soul will reincarnate from dust to dust meaning from body to body and he will die and return and die.”

Based on this, we can understand the meaning of the Zohar: “This is why tzaddikim that maintain the Covenant do not return to their dust, which is the skin of the snake which was created from dust.”

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An individual soul’s assigned task of Avodas Habirurim is completed when all the sparks associated with the soul have been refined.  After that, there is no purpose for the soul to be in the lowly body, the skin of the snake.  The holy sparks that were trapped in that skin have been refined, and all that remains is the shell, the klipos.  At that point, the soul can shed this skin.  This is what happened at the Giving of the Torah, when Hashem’s speech caused the souls of the Children of Israel to fly out of their bodies.  Explains the Rebbe, this phenomenon “is something which testifies to the fact that they arrived at the completion of the Avodah as a soul in a body (and therefore ‘their souls flew out’).”

What this all means is that a time arrives when the soul has completed its Avodah in the body and thus it has no further need to be in the “prison of the body” so therefore it can leave—which appears to our eyes as death or histalkus.  (As mentioned earlier, the ultimate intent is indeed a soul in a body—but not the lowly body of this world.  Instead, the intent is the pure and holy body of the Resurrection of the Dead.)

There is an expression of our sages that is brought in many of the Lag B’Omer Chassidic discourses: hai alma d’azlinan minei—which means “this world which from which we go”.  The intention (as explained in the discourses) is that the only purpose of the soul in this world is to “go” from this world, to achieve a higher level after having completed the task of refinement, Avodas Habirurim.  When the Avodah is done, there is no longer any purpose in remaining here.  The ultimate state of eternal life in a body is something infinitely loftier, as will be explained.

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