Let's Talk About Souls

Thursday, 28 November, 2013 - 11:33 pm

The fifth Chabad Rebbe was once approached by a “freethinking” member of the “enlightenment” who poked fun at the talk of the existence of angels and souls. The Rebbe replied with an analogy. Two Rabbis once traveled by horse and buggy to a conference on spiritual matters. There were three perspectives as to the purpose of the trip. The Rabbis saw the trip as a way to get to the conference to discuss souls and angels. The wagon driver saw the trip as a means of supporting his family. To the horse the only justification for traveling was that the hay in the next town must be better than in this town. The Rebbe concluded, “veil der ferd tracht hubber zeinin di Malachim nisht kein Malachim? Because the horse thinks only of hay do the angels (in the Rabbis’ perspective) not exist?” In other words, since the freethinker’s life was filled only with thoughts of materialism he was incapable of appreciating more abstract spiritual matters.

Last weekend at the wedding of my brother Yosef and his wife Binie, there was a lot of talk about the Jewish tradition that up to three generations of ancestors attend the wedding in spirit to participate in the joy of their family. The fact that the wedding was just days before my grandmother’s (Mrs. Miriam Gordon) first Yahrtzeit made it even more meaningful and real to all of us. We thought of the souls of our late grandfathers and grandmother who were present with us at the wedding.

A few days later we attended a Torah dedication in Encino, California that was written in memory of my grandmother. There again, my uncle, Rabbi Joshua Gordon, talked about the souls of his parents who were celebrating the Torah dedication with us.

The next day, on our drive back to NOLA we stopped off in Phoenix where Malkie’s paternal grandparents are buried. She never knew her grandfather before his passing and she had never been to their graves. She spent an emotional time praying and visiting them. She had our daughters recite Psalms with her as her parents listened in by phone from New York. (The boys and I were confined to the car as we are Kohanim (of the priestly tribe). In my observation, she connected with her grandfather in an unprecedented manner. Standing at his burial place, the man she never knew became very real for her, though he was gone for almost 30 years.

As I reflect on these experiences, I am extremely thankful to be a part of a tradition that teaches us the “realness” of souls and spirituality. It allows us to remain in constant contact with those that have moved on to the next stage of life, but who are still as real for us now as they were before.

Please see below for a full schedule of Chanukah events next week. Most notably, Chanukah @ Lakeside on Tuesday evening and the Celebrity Chef Latke Cookoff for Young Jewish Professionals on Wednesday night.

Please check out a new project called Share the Lights at It is a wonderful Chanukah opportunity to get involved and get others involved in the celebration of this important holiday. And there are awesome prizes as well!

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Wishing you a joyous and bright Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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