Honoring One’s Parent When They Aren’t Alive
A broken hearted widow came to Reb Shlome Zalman Auerbach zt’’l bemoaning the fate of losing her husband to a harsh illness at such a young age, leaving her with four orphans to care for. Though her plight was better, that’s not why she came to Reb Shlome Zalman. Her concern was that if she had devoted herself more to her husband, he would have recovered and stayed alive. Since these thoughts disturbed her well-being, she wanted Reb Shlome Zalman to advise her on what she can do לעילוי נשמתו – to elevate his soul – something that she can fully devote herself to that will serve her husband well and calm her wretched thoughts.
Hearing her request, Reb Shlome Zalman told her, “It’s very nice to do something for your husband’s neshama, but if you want to do something in his honor and elevate his neshama, then you should do the following: 1. When you leave here, take your children to a toy store, and they should buy themselves toys that they like. 2. From today on, you should go with your kids on weekly walks to a place they enjoy visiting so they should refresh themselves and gain renewed strength. 3. Despite your hard situation, you should try to conquer your sadness and create a positive and happy vibe in your home.”
The widow was stunned to hear this reply. She was sure Reb Shlome Zalman would tell her to take upon lofty commitments, etc, and she hears the opposite. Reb Shlome Zalman explained, “The Zohar Hakodesh talks about the great z’chus – merit for the neshama in the עולם העליון – upper world when his children do Hashem’s will. And realistically, when children are calm and happy, they behave and learn better and are automatically more successful. Therefore, if you adhere to what I advised, your children will grow up to be good and devout, and this deed is worth more than any stringent commitment you would take upon yourself. Your children will bring nachas to their father’s neshama, and this, in essence, is truly fulfilling כבד את אביך…”