How do we remember our loved ones who have passed on?
Some like to give charity, sponsor a Kiddush or perform an act or project of kindness, all in memory of the person one wishes to remember or “memorialize”. Jewish tradition has also valued the time honored concept of studying Torah in memory of a loved one.
The theory behind all these traditions is the same: we, the living, do something to remember and ultimately elevate the soul of the person who has passed on. Souls, according to Jewish tradition, can only be elevated through the performance of mitzvot in this world. The World to Come is described by our Sages as a place where souls enjoy whatever spiritual reward that person earned for themselves back in this world but not as a place of movement or growth. This world is a world of earning and growth while in the next world the soul remains in the same spiritual place, basking in the radiance of the Almighty. However there is a belief that when someone chooses to do something special in memory of their relative or loved one, be it charity, an act of kindness or Torah study, somehow that activity serves to elevate the soul in a world where growth or elevation would otherwise not be possible.
And so every year my family remembers my mother, of blessed memory, with a special lecture taught by a great scholar. Last year MJE was honored to hear from Professor Alan Dershowitz and the year before from Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. We have had the likes of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and other notables. This year we are honored to hear from Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveitchik, a rising star on the rabbinic stage. Currently he is Rabbi of the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue in Manhattan and also serves as Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. Grandson of the famed Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik (brother of “The Rav”), Rabbi Meir exemplifies the synthesis between Torah wisdom with intellectual vibrancy and worldliness. His blend of Torah and worldly wisdom was something my mother truly admired in scholars and rabbis and remains an ideal which I and all the MJE educators promote to our students and participants.
In choosing what to do to remember a loved one in your life, choose something you think is meaningful to that person’s legacy. It will not only serve as an elevation for their soul, please God, but will no doubt, lift your spirits as well.
The Ruth B. Wildes Memorial lecture with Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveitchik will take place Wednesday, December 10. Click here for info/registration