Sarah was about 50 years old when I met her. She and her husband
were Baalei Teshuvah and decided that our mostly frum neighborhood
would be the perfect place to live.
all know some really good people, and Sarah was one of them. She had
a heart of gold – everything about her was kind and nice and happy.
She especially loved children, and despite never having any children
of her own, she adored all of the kids on our block. She talked to
them, listened to them and always had a candy or treat close by for
her many young visitors.
Having discovered Yiddishkeit late in life, she was always eager to
attend a shiur or class and genuinely grew from each one. When she
davened it was innocent and sincere, when she did chessed it was
real – she really wanted to help people. Sarah was simply a very
were all shocked when she suddenly passed away just a few years
later. She suffered from a heart defect for many years but never
said a word about it. She never wanted anyone to worry about her.
After the funeral, the women from our shul gathered together to try
to come up with something we could do in her memory. With no family
besides her husband, we were determined to start something
meaningful and important to help preserve her legacy of kindness.
ideas were discussed and investigated – gemachs, dedications in our
shul, learning projects – but in the end, the sad truth is that
nothing was done. We had the people and we were certainly
determined… but somehow we let the opportunity slip by.
now, five years later, whenever her name is mentioned I feel a pang
of guilt for doing nothing. I still intend to do something…
To many of us, this story
probably sounds familiar. A parent, a relative, a close friend or
neighbor passes away and we all feel the instinctive need to do
something l’zecher nishmas that person. But with no clear
idea of what should be done, more often than not the determination
begins to fade, and all we have left is the yahrtzeit – our
yearly reminder of how much they meant to us.
Having personally gone through
the experience above more than once, I was so gratified when I heard
about a new initiative called The Neshamah Project. Started just
last month, the project’s single goal is to help inspire and guide
people to do mitzvos in memory of those who have passed away. In
fact, The Neshamah Project itself is a mitzvah project that was
started l’zecher nishmas someone who had recently passed
The idea is so simple, yet so
important. After the death of a loved one, people are usually left
grappling for something to do to keep the person’s name and legacy
alive and fresh in their minds. Most of us simply do not know what
the best thing to do is, or how to do it. So the Neshamah Project
created a book, The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah, which
guides us on all the why’s and how’s of undertaking mitzvos
l’zecher nishmas our loved ones.
The book is at once inspiring,
informative, and perhaps most importantly, so comforting for us, the
ones who are looking for something meaningful to do.
I honestly did not know how much
we can do to help a niftar “have an aliyah,” even
those who were not frum during their lifetime. This is
something that many Baalei Teshuvah could benefit from after losing
a loved one who was not religious. I am sure that Baalei Teshuvah
would get a lot of comfort knowing that there really are ways to
help their loved ones now, after their death, even if they were
unable to influence them while they were alive.
“Everyone knows someone who can
gain a lot from this book,” says Yechiel Zlotnick, a member of the
Neshamah Project. “Virtually everyone who has heard about our
project or read the book has been astounded by the powerful message.
Invariably, their first reaction is ‘I must give this book to my
friend or relative who just lost their parent.’”
“Imagine the zechus that
we can create for our loved ones if this movement spreads to people
around the world! Imagine the nechamah that we can all feel
knowing that we are really making a difference for their neshamos
and keeping their memory alive.”
It’s true. The opportunity and
the potential are limitless because everyone knows someone who can
benefit from this project.
I for one have already begun my
own neshamah project in memory of a close friend. It is
small, but it is just a start.
This time I intend to make it a
If you know
someone who can benefit from the important work of The Neshamah
Project, you can get more information by contacting them at
email@example.com. You can find their book, The
Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah at Judaica stores everywhere.