Rabbi Yehoshua Alt
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The book Extraordinary Insights
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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
Listen to the short Fascinating Insights podcast at https://jewishpodcasts.fm/
There is a concept of a הולך and an עומד. A הולך is one who has the power to grow spiritually—like us in this world. The opposite of this is an עומד, which is stationary. For this reason a מלאך is called an עומד, since he can’t grow spiritually.
After one dies, he no longer has the ability to be a הולך. In fact, Chazal expound on במתים חפשי that the dead are free from Torah and Mitzvos. Indeed, the term נפטר is rooted in פטור as a dead person is exempt from the Mitzvos. This is in contrast to one who is living as חי is sourced in חייב, as he has an obligation to fulfill the Torah’s precepts.
In the year 1797, when the Vilna Gaon was crying on his deathbed, he was asked why he was crying. The Vilna Gaon lifted his Tzitzis and said that in this world one can purchase Tzitzis for a few kopecks (currency) and every moment he wears them, he gets a mitzvah. However, in heaven a mitzvah cannot be bought with any amount of money!
In this light we can grasp the wordsודרש אל המתים: We should learn from the dead. That is to say, to get the right perspective on life and make the most of it. There is a saying, “Only when you think about the fact that you will die, will you truly start living.”
R’ Moshe Feinstein tells us that the word מצבה, gravestone, is sourced in the word נצב, standing. This is because when a person dies, he becomes stationary (in a spiritual sense). One who sees a מצבה should then fulfill והחי יתן אל לבו, the living should take it to heart. He should be galvanized and realize that he has the ability to ascend levels spiritually.
 Zecharya 3:7.
 Tehillim 88:6, Shabbos 30a.
 Devarim 18:11. The simple meaning is that there should not be found among you one who consults the dead. It is jokingly said that when a Rav gives a shiur where the students fall asleep, that isדרש אל המתים, as he is lecturing to those that are sleeping, which is an aspect of death (Brachos 57b).
 The sefer הדרת קודש (section of letters, letter 34, in the letter of R’ Shabsi Sheftil Weiss) cites that on the day a מצבה is erected, the נפטר, one who passed away, enters Gan Eden and his relatives there say to him, “Mazel Tov…” In Poland they would make a proper seuda on this day for having the מצבה erected (אוצר פלאות התורה, Bamidbar, p. 312).
 Koheles 7:2.