Like so many people I have been devastated by the news of RivkA’s death. I read her blog regularly and was always inspired by the energy and optimism she conveyed. Her numerous friends in Israel have written beautifully about her and I fear I could never express my feelings and gratitude in such an articulate manner.
Instead I prefer to share what I found on Aish. We obviously feel besieged by numerous questions when someone as exceptional as RivkA passes away. Even if we find it hard to act rather than question, Judaism acknowledges our pain and bewilderment and encourages us to live life more fully in the merit of the deceased. The suggestions below concern a parent but apply to any one who has departed this world.
Our Sages have provided us with specific ways that we can help our loved ones gain merit in our daily lives. We can dedicate our actions for the soul through the following suggestions:
• Study Torah or ask a Torah scholar to dedicate his study to your parent’s soul (during the week of shivah, others study Torah since mourners are not allowed to study Torah).
• Tzedakah: Give charity or donate a Torah scroll, prayer books, or holy books in the name of your loved one to an organization, synagogue, or school. It is a good idea to have the name of your parent (or relative) inscribed inside the book.
• Acts of Kindness: Whenever you do a chessed, a kind deed, keep in mind that you are doing this mitzvah as a merit for the soul of your parent. This creates a great impact, for just as you have accomplished kindness, the soul of the departed will now benefit from God’s kindness in turn.
• Prayer: There is, of course, the holy Kaddish prayer that is said, during the first year (12 months) of mourning and on the yahrzeit. Kaddish proclaims our desire that the name of God be sanctified. When one suffers a loss and is then able to recite the Kaddish, he is publicly accepting God’s decree.This is considered to be one of the most awesome mitzvot — Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of God’s name. The merit for the soul is real and great.
• Embrace a Mitzvah: Choose a mitzvah and ‘put your signature on it’. It can be a mitzvah that your parent loved doing, or one that you would now like to take on. There are hundreds of mitzvoth to consider; such as helping children with special needs, visiting the sick, driving patients to doctor appointments, offering your professional services to those who cannot afford them, cooking and baking for families under stress,
Saying blessings before and after you eat, keeping kosher, honoring Shabbat, praying each day, and avoiding gossip and shaming others.
• Light a yahrzeit (memorial) candle in honor of your parent’s soul. Four times a year one lights a memorial candle, besides on the yahrzeit (date of passing) date itself. The holidays of Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, allow us the opportunity of Yizkor, remembrance. We light the candle at sundown and the flames burn for (more than) 24 hours. The flame of the candle symbolizes the human soul which is never extinguished. While lighting the candle, think about your loved one and say that “I am lighting this flame in the merit that my loved one’s soul find peace and attain greater heights in the heavens above.”
The date of the yahrzeit also gives us added opportunities to help the soul soar higher in heaven because yahrzeit is a day of judgment for the soul. It is a custom to gather together and have a meal, a seudah, where we speak about the fine character of our loved one. We tell personal stories that relay
his goodness, kindness, and integrity. Visiting the grave, giving charity, and studying Torah are all additional ways for us to add to our ‘care package to heaven’.