The meaning of tachrichim
By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal
SAN DIEGO — Jews are not buried in the clothes they wore during their lives. Rather, we are dressed in tachrichim, simple white burial garments. This reminds us that no matter how many material blessings one accumulates during a lifetime, we are all equal in death. Additionally, tachrichim remind us that when we leave this world for the next, we cannot take any of our earthly goods with us.
When the High Priest Aaron’s time to die arrived, God ordered Moses: “Strip Aaron of his vestments and put them on his son Eleazar.” (Num. 20:26) The passing of Aaron’s ceremonial garb to his son symbolized, of course, the passing of the High Priesthood to the next generation, but Rabbi Yitzchak-Isaac of Komarna also found an additional lesson in this act.
Before Rabbi Yitzchak-Isaac became known for his learning and piety, he was poor and destitute. His family often did not even have enough to eat.
One day a well-known and famous rabbi visited his home. Rabbi Yitzchak-Isaac did not even have a chair for him to sit on. He told his children to go outside and bring three rocks for his visitor to sit on.
The visiting rabbi asked: “How can it be that such a scholar as yourself doesn’t have any furniture, not even a table or bed?”
Rabbi Yitzchak-Isaac replied: “Honored rabbi, I would like to point out that you do not have a table or chair either!”
“Yes,” said his visitor, “but that is because I do not live here, I am a visitor. Today I am here, tomorrow I will be someplace else.”
Rabbi Yitzchak-Isaac sighed and said, “It is the same with me.
“Today I am here, tomorrow I may not be. Why should I worry about material things when I have much greater concerns?”
Tachrichim remind all of us that life is short and none of us knows what the next day will bring. We should invest our time and energy in those things which are eternal, rather than that which gives us temporary pleasure.
Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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