Conservative Judaism/death


Hello Rabbi and thank you for taking my question:

    I would like to know two things; 1) Christians are under the impression that Jews believe that their relationship and good standing with G-d relies on following the Law. I Was recently told by a rabbi that that is not true and that the Jew believes it depends on G-d's grace....which is true.
    2) I would like to know what Jewish people believe happens to a person after death - I was was told that their "Spirit," (For lack of a better word) gets carried into the next life by their male heir.

Dear Pete,

Thanks for writing and my "plate has been full in terms of time." thanks for understanding

1. I am answering a theological question as a singular Conservative Jewish opinion. My answer is that one's personal relationship with the divine is a dynamic one, involving several known elements: (1) one's perception and interpretation of Jewish law and custom in collaboration with his/her Rabbi; (2) one's personal circumstances, e.g. education, need for an income, single parent, children with issues, medical conditions, etc.' (3) how the individual relates to other human beings, Jews and non-Jews, in terms of all the legal and customary expectations of respecting each human life as possessing sanctity; (4) participation in and with a Jewish community and the larger human community consistent with Jewish values and commandments; and (5) whatever we do not "know" about how the divine plan truly works in details.

"Grace" is a construct of interpretation, and I do not believe that we are in any way expected to ignore our responsibilities or even fulfill them less than we we are able, and then depend upon God's grace for a healthy relationship.

2. What happens to the human "spirit" after death is a belief that falls within a wide range of opinions, but not related to the gender of one's child.

I suspect that your friend is a more fundamentalist Jewish person, possibly under the influence of a Rabbi or followers of Lubavitch / Aish or the like.

Be careful as there are also Christians posing as Jews (Messianic Hebrews) who pose these kinds of statements consistent with Christian thought, not traditional Jewish thought - except for very extreme positions of Ofrthodoxy.

Best wishes

Rabbi Dov

Conservative Judaism

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Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner


Write to me with questions about Jewish customs and law, history, philosophy and tradition for answers from a Conservative perspective or conversion. I am a graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary and a member of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Having served in congregational pulpits since 1970, I now am President of the Foundation For Family Education, Inc. a non-profit educational endeavor. I established it to create new formats of hands-on programs and provide free educational downloads at In addition to general informational questions I welcome your questions about programs for social action, outreach to dual-faith families, inter-faith clergy projects, healing services, education for conversion, adult education for the congregation and the community. If you have questions about Informal and Formal Education I am ready to share my extensive experience with Youth Activities, Camping and Religious School/Hebrew High School on a congregational, community and national/international level.


I have served on the National Youth Commission for more than 25 years and serve on the Boards of the Conservative Zionist movement MERCAZ and the World Council of Synagogues. I have always dual-families and taught candidates for conversion with a great sense of fulfillment. I am very proud of 25 years on the Jewish camping staff of Camps Ramah. My greatest source of pride is my family! Ask me about them, please!:-)

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