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Burial Plot

Yeruchem Yitzchak Landesman

When the butcher banged on his door dressed in shrouds, his wife thought she was seeing an apparition. Had her husband returned from the World of Truth, or was there some grave mistake?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

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W hen the butcher banged on his door dressed in shrouds, his wife thought she was seeing an apparition. Had her husband returned from the World of Truth, or was there some grave mistake? It was past midnight in Baghdad, the capital of modern-day Iraq on the soil of ancient Babylon, and the streets were empty. The Jewish district, too, was silent and sleeping at this hour between dark and dawn.

Yet in two homes, candlelight still flickered. One was the home of the city’s rav, who was sitting on the floor and reciting Tikkun Chatzos, crying bitterly over the Churban and commiserating with the pain of the Shechinah in exile. The other house was that of the shochet and butcher, Yechezkel Levy. He had been buried earlier in the day in a large, dignified funeral, with the entire community coming to pay their respects, shocked and anguished by his sudden passing. Yechezkel was well liked, a yerei Shamayim and honest dealer. He never argued with the Rav or his emissaries when they ruled that an animal he had slaughtered was treif. He was an impeccable baal middos and never offended or hurt anyone.

His wife, the new widow, couldn’t fall asleep. It had been a dreadful day. Toward evening she had returned from the cemetery with her sons and daughters, all of whom were already married. They sat with her until late at night, and then all went to their own homes to get some rest. She was sitting alone, replaying the last few terrible hours in her mind. She paced up and down the house, realizing she should get it in order for the next day. Many people would come to comfort the mourners, and she needed to make sure there would be baked goods and fruits to serve them, so they could make a brachah for the elevation of Yechezkel’s soul.

Suddenly, she heard a loud knock at the locked door.

“Who’s there?” she cried in fright.

A voice sounded through the darkness: “It is I, Yechezkel, open quickly…”

She began to shake. He had just been buried a few hours earlier and now he was back from the World of Truth! She would not open. It was dangerous to see a dead person and converse with him in the middle of the night. But it was Yechezkel, of that she had no doubt. It was definitely her late husband’s voice.

“What do you want?” she asked brokenly from inside.

“Open quickly, I’m cold,” he replied loudly and impatiently.

She didn’t rush to comply, and instead asked more questions: “Where are you coming from?” “The cemetery,” replied the familiar voice, which was becoming more agitated by the minute. “Open up! What happened to you? Your husband wants to come inside and you don’t let him!?”

The woman stuck her head out of the small window near the door, saw her husband dressed in his tachrichim… and fainted.

Neighbors living in the surrounding apartments awoke when they heard Yechezkel’s loud familiar voice, and his wife’s subsequent shrieks before she fainted. Some brave souls went outside to look. There was Yechezkel Levy, the butcher they had buried that very afternoon, dressed in white shrouds — and he was demanding to return home.

“At night we don’t talk to the dead,” they told him in an attempt to calm him down. “And you can’t enter your house now either. When day breaks, go to the Rav and he will listen to everything you have to say.”

Seeing that he had no choice, Yechezkel unhappily complied. With tired steps and a fallen expression, he began walking toward the home of Baghdad’s rav.

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