The Soul Lives On

Yael Eckstein  |  August 13, 2020

female soldiers with green and red berets mourn cry at Shon Mondshine’s funeral
female soldiers with green and red berets mourn cry at Shon Mondshine’s funeral

You are the children of the LORD your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead… — Deuteronomy 14:1

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh, which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17.

When my father Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein died unexpectedly from a heart attack in February 2019, I was in shock and despair. My father was everything to me — a beloved parent and an irreplaceable mentor. I didn’t know how I could go on without him. But as the fog lifted after those first weeks of mourning, I began to realize that in some ways, my father was still with me more than he had ever been before. When he was living, my father was bound by physical limitations, and either he was with me or not. Now that he is no longer confined to his body, I feel my father’s presence all the time.

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things in the world. And yet, death is an inevitable part of life. In this week’s Torah reading, we get a piece of comfort to help us through life’s most challenging moments.

The verse reads, “You are the children of the LORD your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead…” The Jewish sages asked what the first part of the verse has to do with the second half. Clearly, this verse teaches us that it is forbidden to mutilate our bodies as part of mourning. But what does being “children of the LORD” have to do with it?

The sages explained that God is speaking to our pain. It is as if God is telling us: You are all my children — just as I am eternal, so are you. When a person passes on, he or she returns to Me in heaven. So do not lose yourselves in mourning. Take heart and know that your loved one lives on.

As I have learned, we must cherish our loved ones and fully enjoy the time that we have together in this life. When someone is called home by God, we need to go through the process of mourning, but never become consumed by it. We must hold onto our faith knowing that our loved one lives on and that one day, we will see them again. In the meantime, our job is to live our lives with joy, purpose, and peace.

Your turn:

Which Bible verse gives you comfort when dealing with difficulties or even loss? Share your verse in the comment section.

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