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For the week ending 2 May 2015 / 13 Iyyar 5775

Rest in Peace

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

From: Manny

Dear Rabbi,

My parents passed away several years ago. For some reason, I can’t get myself to part from their house and belongings. My wife says I’ve made a museum of them and that it isn’t right — but she can’t articulate why. Can you help me understand what’s going on here and what should be done? By the way, I never sat shiva, said kaddish or observed any Jewish mourning rituals for them.

Dear Manny,

Your parents must have been very special people, and your relationship with them, I’m certain, was very loving and close — and that’s why you’re having such difficulty in parting with them. This feeling is very natural, and your inclination to preserve their memory in this fashion is understandable.

Nevertheless, there comes a point where a person must let go, make peace with death and seek closure. Obsessive mourning is unhealthy and it’s also incorrect as it calls into question G-d’s just mastery over life and death. In fact, as difficult as death is for the living, ultimately it’s the best for the departed. Initially we bereave our loss, but eventually we celebrate their gain.

I think you have reached this point and therefore must let your parents rest in peace and focus on their spiritual well-being while continuing to celebrate your life with your loved ones who are living.

In my opinion, the fact that you are preserving the physical remnants of your parents indicates that you are lacking in some degree a belief in their afterlife. You need to concentrate more on the fact that your parents were not bodies, but people — souls — in bodies. After the body’s demise, the soul lives on. Your parents live on. Not in the physical house in which they lived or the belongings which they used, but in the abode which they prepared for themselves in Heaven.

Therefore, preserving their house and their belongings, in a way, chains them to this world and impedes their spiritual progress. You would do them a much better service and honor by setting them free. And once you connect more to the spiritual aspect of your parents, you’ll realize that your love for them, and what you can do for them, far transcends marinating a “museum” in their memory.

The Jewish way is to pray for the souls of the departed, to say kaddish, to learn (or have others learn) on their behalf, or donate money for worthy Jewish causes in their name. I’m sure that if you did more of those things you would also be unchained from your parents’ house and its furnishings, with its attendant gloom and paralysis, and rather be propelled toward positive, constructive action.

Accordingly, you really need to sell or rent out the house and dispose of as many unnecessary belongings as possible – preserving only the most valuable and sentimental objects for yourself and posterity. And use substantial amounts of the proceeds from your parents’ property to promote their spiritual well-being in the ways I mentioned above. This will allow both you and your parents to truly “rest in peace”.

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