Yakov Saacks

My Sister’s Legacy


Rabbi Yakov Saacks, The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY


In the past I have written about my youngest sister’s recent passing at the age of 49 and how it profoundly made me hyper aware of lost connections and also made me rethink my priorities in life. Shortly after she passed, I made myself a promise that just as I reliably show up for familial negative events, such as her funeral, I pledge to be equally present for the better times.

So, as a man of my word, when I received the good news that my sister’s daughter-in-law gave birth to a baby girl, I made my way to Colorado to where this little baby was brought into the world.


Another reason to travel all the way to Denver was because this little girl is my sister’s namesake as she now shares the same name as my sister (as hard as that may be).

Selecting a Hebrew name for a baby is a serious responsibility and is not to be chosen flippantly. The Talmud teaches that a Hebrew name has a significant influence on its carrier. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to name their children after individuals with positive character traits who have led upright and moral lives.

We are also taught that parents are blessed with a prophetic vision at the moment they finalize on a particular name. One of the great Chassidic masters, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, opines in his magnum opus that there is an incredible connection between the soul of an infant and the soul of the person for whom he or she is named. When a child is named after a person, the soul is elevated to a higher plane in heaven and a spiritual bond is created between the soul of the departed and the soul of the newborn child.

As this baby was named with the exact name of my sister, she is now endowed with all the positive qualities, values, morals and principles that my sister was charged with during her truncated life. This baby has big shoes to fill, and I am sure that with the support of her parents and siblings this should not be an issue.


One of the fundamental beliefs of Judaism is that life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death. At every Jewish funeral we recite the following words from (Ecclesiastes), “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to G d, who gave it.” The body is mortal but the soul continues to live on eternally.

One of the basic laws of physics, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, is that no energy is ever lost or destroyed. If this is true in the case with physical energy, how much more so with regards to a spiritual entity such as the soul whose exists beyond time or space. The spiritual energy, the very source of our senses, emotion and intellect and consciousness does not cease to exist merely because the physical body has ceased to function. Rather, it passes from one form of existence from the physical to the spiritual. This is the reason as to why I do not use the word deceased, as the word deceased means, at least to me, cease to exist, and this is clearly not the case.

So, while I went to celebrate with my sister’s children and grandchildren, I was also celebrating with my sister in a very apparent manner. I believe as taught that we can connect with a loved one and a loved one is able to connect with us.


There is a fascinating custom that says that before a wedding, the bride and/or groom should go to the cemetery, if at all possible, and personally invite the loved ones to attend the wedding. Do not share this information with the caterer. At $300 a plate, this can get quite expensive.

The Talmud in a number of places discusses that the soul is very aware of what goes on in this world, even many years after they have passed. While the soul does leave the physical body after death, there is a part of the soul that remains attached to the body and grave and eventually the headstone. This part that remains is the part of the soul that we connect with and in turn this earthly remnant is currently connected with the rest of the soul up in heaven. Because the soul is not spatial or limited in any way, it can be in two places at the same time.

A further thought. Since the soul is acutely aware of both its earthly and heavenly surroundings, it can prevail upon God to assist us in both physical and spiritual ways. This is precisely the reason we visit the graves of the righteous regardless of where they are buried. I personally have visited holy graves in New York, Israel, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to ask the holy spirits to intercede on my behalf, my family and my community.

I bless this little baby girl called Chanale with a long and happy life filled with meaning and purpose. May she not only make her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and extended family proud, she should bring much joy to her grandmother in heaven whom I am positive is beaming with her dazzling smile and rooting for her physical and spiritual success.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.
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