Ever since the death of my brother seven years ago, I have been grappling with the concept of the soul. I wish I could believe in it. I am the type that needs rational arguments to convince me, and it seems the soul is too abstract for my mind. I know these things can't be scientifically proven, but do I have to resort to blind faith to believe in the soul?
The pain of losing a loved one is so deep because it is so final. You can never replace a person whom you have lost.
But what if you could?
Imagine it were possible to clone your late brother. A genetically identical replica could be created who talks, thinks, looks and smells precisely the same as the person you grew up with. Furthermore, what if scientists developed a way to preserve and replicate memory? They could take your late brother's memories and insert them into his clone. You could sit with your newly recreated brother and reminisce about childhood experiences and laugh at the good old days, sharing a bond that only brothers can.
Would you opt for this? Would you be satisfied with an exact copy of your brother? Would his death be reversed when you met his clone? Would it end your pain?
I can't imagine the answer could be yes. I can't imagine anyone would truly believe that a clone could replace a brother or sister, son or daughter, parent or spouse or best friend.
But why not? Why would a refurbished model be any different from the original?
Because something is missing. This is not your brother. He may have your brother's voice and your brother's expressions, your brother's manner and mind and memory, but he doesn't have your brother's soul. It just isn't him.
That's what soul is. It is what makes you, you. It is the fragment of G‑d that makes each one of us unique. Above your body, beyond your personality, transcending genetics and even deeper than memory is the core of your being, the ineffable essence that is you. We call this your soul. It is soul that makes each person irreplaceable. And it is your brother's soul that you miss.
You don't need scientific proof of the soul, neither do you need blind faith. You know it to exist just as you know your own existence. You can choose to ignore it, or to remember it constantly. Sometimes you can even feel it. And at those moments when you feel your soul, you will feel your brother's soul too.
See Sending Love Packages to Deceased Loved Ones from our Jewish Death & Mourning minisite.