The journey of the soul after death

The journey of the soul after death:

The following is a compilation of teachings allocated from the Halachos printed throughout this Sefer regarding the journey of the soul of the deceased throughout the entire process of death, burial, Shiva, and post mourning.

A. Time of death:

All his life work shines:[1] Kabbalah teaches that at the moment of passing, every positive thought, word, or deed that occurred during the person’s life is concentrated into a pristine spiritual light. This light is revealed to the world and in the Heavenly spheres, where it continues to shine and have an effect on those above and below.

Angels greet Tzadikim:[2] At the time of death of a Tzadik there are three groups of angels who come to greet the soul and tell him to come in peace.

The soul needs comfort:[3] When the soul departs from the body it is in a state of bewilderment and needs comfort from people in the room.


B. The Taharah:

Cleanses soul:[4] The Jewish custom is to refer to the cleansing process of the deceased as “Taharah/Purity.” The reason for this because the Taharah effects a spiritual refinement of the soul of the deceased. It cleanses the soul form his attachment to this world, and thus the soul’s knowledge of this world is decreased after the Taharah.

Tachrichin-affects the soul and weakens judgment: The burial garments, called Tachrichin, have extreme effect on the soul of the deceased.[5] It is customary to bury the dead in a linen garment[6], as there is great Kabalistic meaning behind the wearing of linen, and doing so greatly benefits the soul of the deceased, turning all of his prosecuting angels to defense angels.[7] While dressing the corpse, they are to have in mind that just as they are dressing the body, so too G-d is dressing the soul in Gan Eden.[8]

C. Until the burial, the soul hears everything said before him:[9]

The Talmud Yerushalmi states that the soul of the deceased is present and listens to the eulogies said of him, as if it were a dream. He is aware of all that is said before him until he is buried in the ground.

D. The Burial:

Soul does not move on until burial:[10] The Zohar[11] states as follows: The soul cannot continue with its journey, either in Gan Eden, or as a Gilgul back in this world, until the body is buried. This is because a new body cannot be given to the soul until his old body is buried. It is possible that G-d predestined this soul to be reincarnated in a body that very day of his death, and the delay of the burial can cause a delay in this reincarnation. It is similar to a man who lost his wife and cannot marry a new wife until his late wife is buried. For this reason, the soul also cannot be elevated to Gan Eden until the body is buried, as to enter Gan Eden one needs to receive a spiritual body, and this body cannot be given until the original body is buried. It is therefore a Mitzvah to bury the deceased right away.

Effect on soul if buried in Eretz Yisrael:[12] One who is buried in Eretz Yisrael is saved from Chibut Hakever, and from infestation. The soul goes straight up to heaven, as Chazal state[13] that all the souls are elevated through Yerushalayim.[14] See Chapter 4 Halacha 5C!

Effect on soul if buried near a Rasha: One may not bury a Rasha near a Tzadik[15], as the soul of Tzadik is pained if it is buried near a Rasha.[16] See Chapter 4 Halacha 5D!

E. The soul of the Niftar during Shiva:

Throughout the days of Shiva, the soul of the deceased is found in the home that it lived in.[17] Elsewhere it states that the soul of the deceased hovers over the body for the first three days of Shiva. After the passing of three days, when the soul sees the change of look of the face of his body, he no longer comes to visit it.[18]

Minyan:[19] Thus, we Daven with a Minyan [Shacharis, Mincha, and Maariv] throughout the Shiva in the area that the Niftar passed away[20] as doing so gives Nachas Ruach to the soul of the deceased.

Candles:[21] We light a candle in the home in order to sooth the soul, which returns to the home where it lived and mourns there for seven days. [Some write that every Shabbos throughout the first year the soul of the Niftar comes to visit his family and having a candle lit helps sooth his soul. See Chapter 24 Halacha 3!]

Walking around the block:[22] Some mourners are accustomed after getting up from Shiva on the seventh day to walk around the block of the Shiva home [starting from the right side] until they reach their home from the other side. Some say this walk accompanies the soul to its new resting place in heaven.

Matzeiva:[23] The Matzeiva serves as a resting place for the encompassing lights of the soul of the deceased, and these encompassing lights come to rest on the Matzeiva after the Shiva.

F. The soul of a murder victim:[24]

The soul of a murder victims does not rest in heaven until their murderer is apprehended and held accountable. The soul of the victim demands justice and that his murderer be put to death, and does not rest his case until this is done. This is the secret meaning of the verse “One who spills blood of man, his blood will spill” as through the prosecution that the soul of the victim voices against the murderer, he brings about the death of the murderer, and if not in this world then in the next world. This can be seen with the story brought in the Midrash[25] that after a certain son was murdered by his brother, his mother saved the blood in a jar, and that blood boiled until the sibling murderer was killed. It is for this reason that we do not perform Taharah to a murder victim, as burying the victim in the clothing that he wore at the time of his murder helps motivate him to seek vengeance against the murderer.

G. The judgment of the soul-Chibut Hakever:

The soul of the deceased is judged throughout the Shiva, Shloshim, and 12 months after passing as explained above in 2B. Likewise, each year on the day of the Yahrzeit, the soul goes through a judgment.[26]

Chibut Hakever:[27] Chibut Hakever is a punishment, or stage of refinement, that the body of the deceased goes through after the burial. This process accomplishes the separation of Kelipa and evil from the body, which has become attached due to sin, including the sin of Adam, as explained in Halacha 1. The Arizal explains the process as follows: Immediately after the burial inside earth, four angels come and lower the earth in the grave and make a vacuum of space that can fit one person. They then return his soul to his body, just as he was when he was alive, and the four angels hold him from his arms and legs and shake him and hit him with bats of fire, similar to how two people shake a Tallis. They shake him off from all the dirt that became stuck to him, until all the Kelipa is removed from him. It is for this reason that the grave must be dug deep, in order for there to be room for this shaking process to transpire. Now, different people go through different amounts, and intensities, of shaking, depending on their actions when alive. A Tzadik who controlled his inclination, and suffered in this world, only requires a swift shake, which is virtually painless. However, a Rasha who indulged in sin and the worldly pleasures requires a much stronger and lengthy cleansing process. This then is the meaning of the statement in Pirkeiy Derebbe Eliezer that an angel comes to the grave and asks the deceased as to his name, and the deceased answers that G-d knows that he does not know his name. This refers to a Rasha who did not know the name of his specific form of Kelipa or Yetzer Hara and thus did not properly battle it.

Segulos to avoid Chibut Hakever: 1) One who is buried in Eretz Yisrael is saved from Chibut Hakever, and from infestation.[28] 2) One who is buried on Erev Shabbos past the fifth hour is saved from Chibut Hakever.[29] 3) One who recites the letters of Torah for six hours throughout every 24 hours period, is saved from Chibut Hakever.[30]


[1] Tanya Igeres Hakodesh 28

[2] Rama 403:10

[3] Taz 339:4; Kol Bo ibid, brought in Beir Hagoleh; Beis Lechem Yehuda 339

[4] Mavor Yabok Sefas Emes 25

[5] Beir Heiytiv 352:1

[6] Shach 352:1; Levush 352; Tur 352 in name of Rambam Avel 4; Yalkut Reuveini Parshas Mikeitz, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 352:2; Gesher Hachaim 10:1; Darkei Chesed 12:1

[7] Yalkut Reuveini ibid; See Rambam Avel 4:1; Mavor Yabok Imrei Noam 21

[8] Mavor Yabok Sifsei Rinanos 13; Chochmas Adam 157:8; Kitzur SHU”A 197:1; Nitei Gavriel 46:7

[9] Taz 344:1

[10] Mavor Yabok Mamar Sefas Emes 27; Zohar Parshas Emor p. 88b

[11] Parshas Emor p. 88b

[12] See Gesher Hachaim 27:8

[13] Midrash Raba Vayikra

[14] Gesher Hachaim ibid

[15] Michaber 362:5; Mishneh Sanhedrin 46a and Gemara 47a

Is this Biblical, Rabbinical, or a custom? Some Poskim rule that this law is a Biblical obligation, and a tradition of Moshe from Sinai [Chasam Sofer 341; Minchas Elazar 2:41; Igros Moshe 2:152; Teshuvos Vehanhagos as so is learned from the above Mishneh regarding Harugei Beis Din] Others rule that this law is a Rabbinical obligation. [Dvar Mishpat] Others rule that this law is a mere custom. [Maharil Semachos 10]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that it is permitted to bury a Tzadik near a Rasha and the ruling in the above Mishneh is limited to only Harugei Beis Din. [Chasam Sofer ibid in opinion of Rambam who omitted this Halacha]

[16] Story brought in Sefer Chassidim 705 that it is like being buried near a bathroom that has a foul smell; Maharil ibid that the soul of the Tzadik is not revealed the secrets of heaven if he has a Rasha neighbor.

[17] Tanya 67; Mavor Yabok Imrei Noam 35; Daas Torah 384; Torah Leshma 520 in name of Arizal

[18] Yerushalmi, Pnei Baruch 13 footnote 1

[19] Rama 384:3

[20] Rama 376:3 in name of Maharil and in 384:3

[21] Torah Leshma 520

[22] Darkei Chesed 25:11

[23] Arizal in Shaar Hamitzvos Vayechi and in Nagid Mitzvah Inyanei Aveilus

[24] Mavor Yabok Sefas Emes 10

[25] Midrash Raba Vaeschanon

[26] See Arizal in Shaar Hakavanos; Lechem Hapanim 376; Maharam Mintz 69 ; Leket Yoser p. 98; Mishmeres Shalom Yud 15 in name of Besht; Torah Lishmah 493; Nitei Gavriel 70:1; 72 footnote 1

[27] Shaar Hagilgulim Hakdama 23

[28] See Gesher Hachaim 27:8

[29] Shaar Hagilgulim Hakdama 23; Radbaz 1:107, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 357:2; Gilyon Maharsha 357; Nitei Gavriel 129:6 See Toras Menachem 19:31 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5:324]

[30] Hayom Yom 7th Teves

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