Three Main Ways to Elevate the Soul

Our world is a world of action. Heaven is a world of connection. The soul is connected to spirituality and G-d. It also remains connected to us down here.
For thousands of years, Jews have prayed, studied, and done good deeds on behalf of their deceased loved ones – demonstrating the positive influence the deceased continues to have on our lives, deepening the soul’s connections to G-d and to those of us who remain on Earth.
Traditionally, there are three main ways to elevate the soul:

Kaddish Recital Comforts the Soul
Mishnah Study Helps the Soul
Yizkor Recital Uplifts the Soul

Kaddish Recital Comforts the Soul

One of the most beautiful prayers in Jewish liturgy is Kaddish.

Yisgadal v’Yiskadash Shmeih Rabba…

The words of Kaddish are beautiful. Interestingly, the make no mention of death – the prayer is an affirmation of life and of our trust in God, and sanctifies His Name. No wonder that the words themselves bring great comfort to mourners and are the most famous Jewish prayer associated with mourning.

Kaddish is by definition a public prayer – it can only be said in a minyan, a prayer quorum of ten – a fact which emphasizes the importance of community and togetherness.  Kaddish is first said at the funeral, and then is said numerous times daily for almost a year, at synagogue. It is also recited on each yahrtzeit (Jewish anniversary of passing).  Traditionally the children of the departed recite the Kaddish prayer, though anyone can say it.

Aside from comforting mourners, Kaddish itself brings great comfort to the soul of the deceased and helps it achieve forgiveness in the Next World for any mistakes it may have made. 

As explained in the Jewish mystical works, “After death, the son says… Kaddish, and through this, he saves his father from the judgment of Gehinnom (Purgatory).”  (Zohar Chadash, Acharei Mos)

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Mishnah Study Helps the Soul

The Mishnah is the first ‘layer’ of the Talmud, a central part of Jewish tradition. There is a direct mystical connection between the words ‘soul’ (nishamah - נשמה ) and ‘Mishnah’ (משנה ): both words have the exact same letters.  Jewish tradition teaches that this is not a coincidence, for the study of Mishnah is a unique and special merit for the soul of the deceased. Jews have been studying the Mishnah in memory of their loved ones for thousands of years.
Some mourners complete the entire Mishnah in time for the shloshim (thirtieth day after burial), others complete the study in time for the yahrtzeit (Jewish anniversary of passing).  Many choose to ‘do extra’ by doing both.  There is also a custom to complete the entire Mishnah on all following yahrtzeits – Kabbalistic sources reveal that the yearly anniversary of passing is a time when the departed soul has the potential to move higher in the Heavenly realm, if provided the merit. 

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Yizkor Recital Uplifts the Soul

Yizkor (The Prayer of Remembrance) is a unique and meaningful poetic prayer that is recited in synagogue on specific Jewish holidays (including Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret, the last day of Pesach, and the second day of Shavuot). The Yizkor prayer is accompanied by a pledge to charity in merit of the departed soul.  Throughout the generations, Jews have made a special effort to attend synagogue at these times, to remember and uplift the souls of their loved ones at these special junctures.

 “Yizkor must be recited for a deceased parent. Yizkor can also be recited for all deceased relatives and friends, if the person reciting Yizkor has a deceased parent.”  (Mourning and Remembrance, page 151)

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