Question: I was writing, and at some point I was not aware of what I was writing. I found that I had written “Your father can not go to the next level”. My dad passed away several years ago, and I’m not sure what the “next level” can mean in the context? Any insights would be appreciated.
Answer: The response to your question requires a lot elaboration more than an email response but I will try to be as concise as possible.
Assuming your “message” isn’t just something that you may have subconsciously been exposed to earlier in the day and daydreaming about, I believe there is great meaning to this message and am glad that you are taking it seriously.
In Judaism we believe that man consists of body and soul. Although when one dies the body is buried awaiting the resurrection after the coming of Moshiach, the soul lives on in Gan Eden (after the purification process of Gehinom) experiencing some level of spiritual delight. This is not to be confused with the ultimate reward and pleasure of the world to come that will only take place after the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah) and resurrection of the dead.
How does one’s soul achieve these various pleasures of Gan Eden and the world to come? It is only through the mitzvah achievements that one did in their lifetime. As our sages teach “Today (during our lifetime) is the time to work, whereas Shabbos (symbolic of world to come) is time to rest and enjoy pleasure.” Whatever one accomplishes through their good deeds in their lifetime is the key for their reward, once they die they can no longer add to their reward.
There is one exception. When one’s children perform mitzvohs (Torah commandments, good deeds), they elevate their parents soul and the deceased can continue to reach higher levels in the afterlife even though they didn’t personally do those acts. This is really the deeper understanding of children reciting Kaddish on behalf of their parents. It benefits the soul of the deceased. Tragically, when ones children do not maximize their own responsibility of Torah observance, not only are they lacking in their own life achievements and purpose, unintentionally they are also depriving their deceased parents their only hope of continued elevation in the world to come.
We all have much to improve in terms of our growth in Mitzvah observance and commitment to religious life. I think, however blunt it may sound, that you were worthy and privileged to receive a message from your personal father (perhaps more importantly G-d, our Father!) that there are areas in your Jewish commitment that can be improved. Perhaps you are complacent and aren’t increasing your Mitzvah observance and through honest introspection can reach higher in your Torah commitment and additionally help your fathers soul? Ultimately, these are assessments you have to make, but I think the first step would be to find a orthodox Rabbi or synagogue that you can attend classes and learn more about the Torah and mitzvohs so that you can be educated and know where you can start . If you are interested, I can try to guide you to find a Rabbi near you.I wish you success in your journey and that your fathers soul should find peace.
All the best,
Rabbi Azriel Schrieber