24 Tevet is the yartzeit of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi – the Alter Rebbe, author of “The Tanya” (the foundation of the chassidic teaching) and “Shulchan Aruch Harav” (practical law).
What happens to a tzadik – a man of impeccable thoughts, words and actions – after he leaves the world? The Torah’s perspective on this topic is unique.
The Alter Rebbe shares it in his book of “The Tanya”:
– … At the time of his passing, G‑d elevates his ruach and gathers up his soul, and he ascends from one elevation to the next, to the very highest of levels… This, then, is the meaning of the statement in the sacred Zohar (III, 71b), that “When a tzaddik departs, he is to be found in all the worlds more than during his lifetime” (Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 27).
Thus, even after leaving the world, the work of the soul continues – it makes ascent after ascent. But there’s more to it. Perhaps the most important ascent awaits the soul during the time of the Geula (Redemption).
From the Rebbe’s explanations:
– Yartzeit is the day when a person’s soul is separated from his body. This is the greatest concealment and disappearance – the concealment of the soul, which is “literally a part of G‑d above” (see “Tanya”, chapter 2). This is the biggest descent. But, like any other descent, it has a purpose – it is meant to be followed by an ascent to a new height, which was unattainable until the descent took place.
The ascend of the soul in the upper realms is endless, bringing it from one height to another. This ascent affects both the soul as well as those who are connected with it here, in this lower, physical world – [for instance, the disciples and the followers of the tzaddik].
However, the greatest ascent is not just the elevation of the soul as such. It is the elevation of the soul as it is joined again together with its physical body, because the ultimate, the most complete expression of the soul is within the material world. This elevation will become possible in the time of Geulah (Redemption) – the time of awakening, eternal life and the fulfillment of the prophecy:
“He has concealed death forever, and HaShem, G-d, shall wipe the tears off every face…” (Yeshayahu, 25:8).
Adapted from the talks of the Rebbe on the 20th and the 22nd of Shevat, 5752. Free translation.