This year marked the 1st year I said Yizkor in synagogue for my beloved mother, Penny Waga who left this world on February 27, 2013. Standing in Carlebach synagogue crying during the service, I thought of my mother and memories of her. While I realized that for the rest of my life in this world I’d say Yizkor for her, I also left pondering the question of whether there is life after death.
Basic research will allow us to understand that one of the most fundamental beliefs of Judaism is that life does not begin with birth or end with death. As is written in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to G d, who gave it.” But of course, who really knows. I have always been scared of death and remember discussing it with my mom vividly. Asked her once if people live after death, and remember her telling me “Sweetie, I don’t know – but if there is life after death, I want to know if there are really aliens and who killed John F. Kennedy.” And now that she’s not in this world, I hope she is with parents and at complete peace.
To help me answer some of these pressing questions, in the last 48 hours, have read the fascinating (and highly recommended) book “Does the Soul Survive: A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past Lives & Living With a Purpose” by Rabbi Elie Spitz, who addresses the topic of Jewish life after death. He shares scholarly texts on the topic, Jewish sources – Talmud, Kabbalah and more. There are some fascinating stories shared from people who have had near death experiences, and stories which I enjoyed reading. This special book clearly leads one to believe that there is life after death.
What I know is that I certainly hope that my soul will reconnect with my mothers’ soul and I hope that if somewhere she is looking down she is smiling. For sure, as the book states “in this life we have choice and the ability to elevate our soul.” And we have to do all we can in this world to live the fullest life which we can.
I will always honor the memory of my mother.
Ronn Torossian, the proud son of Penina “Penny” Waga