Rabbi Asher Resnick is currently one of the senior lecturers of Aish Hatorah’s Executive Learning Center, and a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. Rabbi Asher Resnick was born and raised in LA, and graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology. He received rabbinic ordination from Aish HaTorah and from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. He has also served as a senior lecturer at the Institute of Jewish Legal and Medical Ethics in San Francisco, and at the Aish HaTorah Branch in New York City.
As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma will provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues.
He is now bringing the expertise he has developed over his past thirty-five years of teaching and writing to the wider Jewish world through his website JewishClarity.com. It contains five different categories of material:
- Proofs of G-d and Torah.
- Core philosophical and theological issues.
- Presentations of accessible and meaningful messages for all of the Jewish holidays, relevant for Jews with all levels of background.
- Teaching materials for all of Sefer Mada of the Rambam.
- Bereavement material, as well as helping people to deal with painful difficulties and challenges in their lives.
NLEResources.com is happy to highlight several essays by Rabbi Resnick over the coming months. An introduction to the first essay follows with a link below to read the full article:
Helping and Maintaining our Relationship with the Deceased:
Honoring our Deceased Relatives and Bringing Merit to our Loved Ones, Part 1
L’iluy Neshama – Helping & Maintaining Our Relationship with the Deceased – Part 1
Losing a close relative or friend is among the greatest traumas a person can experience. The thought that we have lost any possibility of relationship with someone we were so close with can be devastating. While Judaism appreciates just how painful this can be, it also offers something that can provide a degree of help. This is what is known as l’iluy neshama — the elevation of the soul of the deceased. In addition to whatever one manages to accomplish during his or her lifetime, others can also grant them merit, and help them to elevate their soul, specifically once they have left this world. In the process, those in this world will be able to maintain a connection, and even a relationship, with the deceased. G-d willing, we should all have the ability to directly help our departed loved ones, and to maintain a relationship with them, as much as is possible. This should all be a merit and an iluy neshama for Ruchama Rivka, a”h, bat Asher Zevulun.
Working for the iluy neshama (elevation of the soul) of the deceased is not only a chessed shel emet (true kindness); it is also an obligation of nosei b’ol im chaveiro (carrying the burden with one’s friend).
In Yeish Nochalin (by the son of the Shelah HaKadosh) it is written — “Chessed shel emet (the true kindness) that one does for the niftar (deceased) is enormously greater than all of the chassadim (kindnesses) that one does for the living in this world…Therefore, every person needs to be careful not to steal from the deceased, but rather to give tranquility to the soul that is at rest. The [living] one, who has the ability, should give [to the deceased]. We already wrote that there is a very great mitzvah for every person in this world to ease the judgment of those in Olam Haba (the World to Come).” (Quoted in Kol Bo l’Yartzeit, p. 50.)
The Sukkat Shalom, the classical organization of sources discussing the concept of l’iluy neshama, points out that if the Torah considers burial of the deceased, which is taking care of the body, to be a chessed shel emet, how much greater is the chessed we do when we help the neshama (soul) to reach its proper place in Gan Eden through mitzvot and learning done on behalf of the deceased? (Foreword, p. 8.)
Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, Mashgiach of Ponovezh, wrote: “Nosei b’ol im haniftar (carrying the burden with the deceased) is enormously great and called — ‘gemilut chessed shel emet (the giving of true kindness).’The Saba from Kelm explained that the entire concept of aveilut (mourning) is to be nosei b’ol im haniftar, and to lighten his burden…
“This is why the Torah is so strict with aveilut, specifically during shiva and shloshim (the first week and month of mourning) [when the initial judgment is occurring].
“The niftar (deceased) has to give a full accounting for his actions, and it isn’t easy for him to arrive at his [final] resting place. As soon as we are nosei b’ol im haniftar, his burden is lightened. All of this is what we are required to think about at the time of the aveilut (mourning) — that we want to lighten the yissurim(difficulties) and onshim (punishments) of the niftar. Even the people who are coming to comfort the mourners [should] have this goal — to make things easier for the niftar. All of these matters are inherent in what the Torah requires from us…
“As long as we focus on Olam Ha’zeh (this world), there is room for jealousy and arrogance, and we don’t [necessarily] think about others. But once we understand that the purpose of man is Olam Haba (the World to Come), our [negative] middot shrink within us, and we draw closer to loving others… When we listen carefully to the Kaddish and answer amen with kavanah (focus), we are being nosei b’ol im haniftar. And similarly…giving tzedaka or learning mishnayot are all a tremendous zechut for the niftar. In addition, whoever gives zechut to the niftar also gains [a great deal] himself.” (Ohr Yechezkal, Middos pp.103-7.)
Rabbi Zvi Hebel explained that when one passes away, our relationship with them is not over. “The relationship is instead transformed from physical to spiritual, and in this new form can potentially be even deeper… than the physical relationship was… By sharing in their pain, we should be moved to do what we can to ease their burden. Being nosei b’ol with the deceased creates an everlasting spiritual connection… [This] is a very real obligation toward our departed loved ones that exists for the rest of our lives.” (The Neshama Should Have an Aliya – pp. 27-8)