Once upon a time, there lived a fisherman. One day, he announced to his fellow townspeople that he had made a ground-breaking discovery. “I have discovered,” declared the fisherman, “that there is not a single creature in the ocean smaller than an inch long!”
Naturally, the townspeople were sceptical. “I will prove it to you,” said the old man. “Throughout my life, I have sailed the seven seas; I have cast my nets here and there and never once caught a creature measuring less than an inch long.”
“Foolish fisherman,” replied the townspeople. “Examine your nets: they have inch-long holes!”
Throughout our lives, our physical sensations are our tools with which to grasp reality. Sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell define our worldly realities. But there is another reality too, a deeper reality. One that cannot be caught or defined. The soul.
Dr. Duncan MacDougall famously posited that the soul has a mass of 21.3grams. In Jewish belief the soul is a part of G-d and as such is indestructible. Indeed, like the first rule of thermodynamics that energy is never lost, it just takes a different form, after the passing of a loved one we can take comfort in the fact that while the soul has moved on, it is still close.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, once consoled a mother who was distraught after the loss of her son. He asked her, “What if I told you that your son isn’t dead? Rather, he has gone to a place where he is safe and happy. He feels no pain; he has no fear and no regrets. You can’t see him, but you can send him letters and packages, and he will feel close to you and you to him. If I told you this, would things be different?”
She thought about it and answered, “Well, I guess the pain would not be quite so unbearable if I knew he was safe, and I could tell him that I love him.”
“Well,” the Rebbe told her, “this is in fact the case. Your son is in Heaven, where he is at peace. And he can still feel your love. When you say a prayer or study Torah in his honour, you are sending him a letter. When you do mitzvoth in his memory you are sending him a package. When you give a coin to charity, light the Sabbath candles, or show kindness to those in need, and you have him in mind, he receives a flow of love from you. His soul is elevated when you perform good deeds in his memory.”
Rabbi Eli Pink