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Spiritual Tools-Parah-Tzidkat haTzaddik

Our Sages state of certain individuals that they have incurred the death penalty for their transgressions. The words of our Sages are most certainly motivated by mercy for all creatures and aim to bring goodness in life to the world. When they declared that a person deserves a certain punishment, they really mean to say that he achieves atonement thereby.


As the Talmud says concerning those condemned to capital punishment by the court, “their death is their atonement (Sanhedrin 47b).” For our Sages saw that it was difficult to atone for certain transgressions, so they derived the appropriate punishment from a biblical verse; consequently, this specific punishment is the means for atonement. Were it not so, why should he be punished? For we know that punishment is meant only as a means of atoning. Therefore, because of this sin, it may be decreed that one will be childless, or any of the other four things considered equivalent to death as stated in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 5a: poverty, blindness, and leprosy).

However, by studying Torah, “bringing oneself to death” for the sake of Torah, for this too is called death, as our Sages said in their comment on the verse in Parshat Parah, “This is the law, when a man dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14),” one’s sin is forgiven, for this vigorous study of Torah is the equivalent of death.

Therefore, the Talmud says, “What shall a man do that he may live? He should bring himself to death (Tammid 32a).”

Torah is called the Tree of Life, as our Sages taught (Tanna d’Bei Eliyahu Rabbah 1), and death is called, “the way of the earth,” as it is written that Joshua said just before he died, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth (Joshua 23:14).” Therefore death is the way to reach eternal life. (Tzidkat haTzaddik #123)

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