It’s a fundamental idea in Torah-observant Judaism that when we were born into the world, we become a new link in a long spiritual chain. We begin our lives with a spiritual connection to our parents, our parents’ parents, and all of our direct ancestors – even those who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. And, this connection has an influence on the path that our life takes.
Our ancestors have passed on to us a spiritual inheritance. On one hand, our Sages explain that we receive a portion of the reward for the mitzvos and moments of t’shuvah that they fulfilled while they were alive. But what exactly is this “reward” that is passed on to us and our children’s children?
Rav Dessler explains that it is the spiritual sensitivity and light that the individual achieved in his or her lifetime. This light gives their descendants a greater sensitivity to and desire for an even higher level of mitzvah performance and connection to Hashem. We don’t have to work hard for this influence. We can just tap into it and continue it; it’s a free gift. Most of us, for example, have heard of the concept of doing something l’ilui nishmas a deceased person, doing mitzvos for the elevation of a niftar’s soul.
Rabbi Elazar of Worms, the Rokeach, taught that if during the deceased person’s lifetime he or she made an effort to perform acts of chesed, tz’dakah, and other mitzvos, then G-d reciprocates the merit of those good deeds.
The kindness that Hashem brings to the descendants of the one who observed these mitzvos is the Divine Assistance needed to fulfill even more mitzvos within the same or similar area. Whenever any of the descendants then perform such mitzvos, the reward they earn will simultaneously increase the ancestor’s merit and elevate his or her soul in Olam HaBa (the Next World).
On the other hand, this spiritual inheritance is not just of positive qualities and behaviors, but of the negative ones, too. This includes the places where our ancestors fell short in their Torah observance and avodas Hashem, as well as the character traits that they needed to rectify. If we choose to take on these shortfalls as our own and continue in their destructive path instead of distancing ourselves from them and working to fix them, then all the spiritual darkness and influence they generated extends to us, as well.
(Material was previously published on ShiratMiriam.com.)
List of People Who Need a r’fuah sh’leimah (a complete recovery)
Please recite Psalms 20, 30, 88, 121, and 130.
Yosef Yitzchak HaLevi ben Miriam Devorah
Shalom Dovir ben Shaina Brachah
Shneor Zalman ben Chanah
Shalom Mendel ben Chanah Sarah
Yitzchak ben Yonit Mendal
Menachem Mendel HaKohen ben Chanah
Levi Yitzchak ben Nechamah Dinah
Yaakov ben Elisheva Yael
Yisrael Aryeh Lev ben Miriam
Liran Brachah bas Shaindel Leah
Esther Hadassah bas Devorah
Tamar Yael Mina bas Chanah
Yael bas Sharon