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“After Death,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

April 29, 2022 | 28 Nisan 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way to Shabbat.

You can listen to it as a podcast here.

What happens after we die?
If only we knew
As if it could help us live longer
As if the mortal condition of our bodies would allow a longer future.
But our bodies are only vessels for that which is eternal
Our souls
Never seen
But certainly felt
Impossible to hold
Yet full of potential to send ripples of impact out into forever.
Aharei Mot is the name of this week’s Torah portion.
A grim reminder of the shocking story
Of Aaron’s sons
Offering alien fire
In return, they received death.
In that world: Do it exactly right.
In their world, that is what mattered.
In our world,
We don’t know why some die and some live.
Why and how and way too soon.
Aharei Mot, according to Rabbi Chaim Stern
Could not only mean after the death of Aaron’s sons
But also after death itself.
What lies beyond the grave?
What happens to our inner essence, our soul,
After it leaves our body?
It cannot be seen while we live
And neither can it be seen after we die
But something of it, of us, remains.
The physical presence turns to a spiritual existence.
That may be the toughest transition of all.
It takes a kind of faith to believe that our souls do not die.
They, like our breath, holy molecules of being,
Mix into the universe, shapeless with no form
Yet possess a bond with the living.
As Maya Angelou wrote of this idea:
“Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.”
How do we learn to experience that which we cannot see
But know is there?
So I conclude by opening up our hearts
With some questions from Rabbi Chaim Stern:
Can it be that love does not abide?
Can it be that the tears of everyone who ever loved
do not water the Tree of Life?
Aharei Mot, after death,
Is love.
Unable to be seen yet manifest
In every way we have offered it
And received it.
That is eternal.

Shabbat Shalom!

Connect with me here. I look forward to corresponding with you and to hearing your thoughts.

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Shabbat Shalom!