Question:

I am married with four children and would like to know — upon passing from this world will our souls remain as a family for eternity? Will we know each other as we do now? Will I continue to be a parent and have contact with my children's souls once they have passed on?

Answer:

We all consist of both body and soul. Upon passing, it is only our bodies that we leave. Our soul lives on. Families are bonded through both body and soul. Hence, their relationship is eternal.

This is alluded to in a number of places:

1) When describing our Patriarchs' deaths, the Torah describes their passing as "going to rest with their fathers."

2) The Zohar tells us that the pure souls above intercede on behalf of their families below. The events of our lives are strongly impacted by the efforts and prayers of our ancestors in the other world.

3) Chassidic tradition teaches that several generations of departed ancestors descend from the world of truth to attend the wedding of their descendants.

So indeed, our families stay united forever. But bear in mind that as limited, physical humans it is impossible for us to relate to the spiritual life of the next world. Thus, the ideas that you mention in your letter - knowledge, communication, etc. - will exist there in a manner far loftier than we can presently relate to.

Your question also has much relevance to our lives today. For right now, our ancestors are gazing down at us from heaven. They are hoping that we will carry on in their ways and live a life that will give them much pride. And when we say kaddish, give charity, or sponsor a synagogue event in the name of a loved one, we give tremendous satisfaction to their souls above.

May your family live together for many happy, healthy years...and beyond.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar