Choose Life

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


The great sage Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (1215-1293) was arrested by the non-Jewish authorities as a way to extort the Jewish community for 23,000 marks of silver. Rabbi Meir forbade the Jewish community from paying the ransom lest they become accustomed to doing such things in the future and after seven years he died in prison.

This though is not the end of the story. The authorities refused to release the body until fourteen years after his death a ransom was paid by Alexander ben Solomon Wimpfen.

Tradition has it, that after R’ Meir was buried he came to Alexander in a dream and offered him a choice for his reward. Either he can be together with him in the Garden of Eden or he could receive long life.

Alexander chose to be together with R’ Meir and indeed he died a year later. After his death, his body was interned by the side of R’ Meir as per Alexander’s request.

Chassidim would say, that it is clear from the above story, that though Alexander was a great Jew with tremendous merit, he was not a chossid. For a chossid it is clear that “A single moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is greater than all of the World to Come[1].” No matter the greatness of the reward, there is nothing that compares to the act of doing mitzvos in this world, as only in this world through mitzvos can one connect to the essence of G-d.

[1] Mishna, Avot, 4:17

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