Parshas Behaaloscha (5770)
On the eve of Taanis Esther (The Fast of Esther), March 23, 1986, the Jewish people suffered a great loss when the great Torah sage and leader of the generation, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ZT”L, passed away. His funeral was held on the Lower East Side of New York City where he had lived and taught Torah to the masses for so many years, with tens of thousands of Jews (myself included) in attendance.
His body was later flown to Israel where a second funeral was held on Shushan Purim (the day after our Purim, when those who live in Jerusalem celebrate the holiday), this time with an estimated 300,000(!) Jews coming out in the middle of their Shushan Purim celebrations to hear the many eulogies for “Reb Moshe” (as he was lovingly called by all) given by all the greatest Rabbis in Israel, and to accompany this great tzaddik to his final resting place at the Har HaMenuchos cemetery in Jerusalem.
Shortly thereafter, a resident of Jerusalem who had attended the funeral began experiencing severe headaches, the likes of which he had never experienced before. He went to his doctor who did a full examination but found nothing. The man seemed to be in perfect health, save for these unusually strong headaches which felt like his head was being bored with a drill.
After feeling incredible pain for a couple of days and not being able to find a cure or even an explanation for his mysterious condition, the man decided to go to one of the well known Kabbalists in Jerusalem to seek a spiritual remedy for his ailment. When the Kabbalist heard that the man’s headaches had begun around the time of Reb Moshe’s funeral, he asked the fellow if he might possibly have said something to slight the great Reb Moshe’s honor in any way. The man could not recall any such occurrence, so the Kabbalist decided to do a Goral HaGr”a.
The Goral HaGr”a is a special goral, or “lottery”, based on a mystical tradition attributed to the Gr”a, (an acronym for Gaon Rabbeinu Eliyahu, the “Genius Rabbi Elijah”, who lived in Vilna in the mid-1700’s and was known as the “Vilna Gaon”). The Goral is performed by a skilled and qualified practitioner who, after proper prayer and spiritual preparation, is able to divine G-d’s advice for what the petitioner should do in a certain situation (Kids, don’t try this at home!). A Tanach (Hebrew Bible) is used, and certain seemingly random page-turning is done. The pasuk (verse) that comes up after using this system gives an answer to the person’s question.
In the Goral HaGr”a performed by the Kabbalist in Jerusalem to find the reason for the petitioner’s mysterious headaches, the verse that “randomly” came up from all the 23,000+ verses in Tanach was from this week’s Torah portion, in which G-d admonishes Miriam and Aaron for speaking disparagingly about their brother Moshe: “Why did you not fear to speak against My servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:8).
The man still couldn’t recall what he might have done to slight Reb Moshe’s honor, until it hit him. At the long, drawn-out funeral, he had been standing among the throngs of people for a few hours when he finally turned to the fellow next to him and said, “Okay, okay, it’s Reb Moshe Feinstein … but still, today is the holiday of Purim! Is there no limit to the eulogies?!” [The Halachah (Jewish Law) is that eulogies are forbidden on Shushan Purim as on other Jewish holidays, with an exception made for great Torah sages.]
The man now realized what he had done. He had spoken against G-d’s “servant” (Reb) Moshe, the beloved and saintly rabbi and leader of the generation.
The Kabbalist told him to immediately take a minyan (quorum) of ten men with him to Reb Moshe’s gravesite on Har HaMenuchos and to ask him for forgiveness. The man followed the Kabbalist’s advice and the headaches went away almost instantly!