What Are You Going To Do, If You Don’t Know What To Do?

Past Articles:

What’s the benefit of lighting a candle for a person’s yartzeit? 
Lighting candles for somebody after that person’s passing is an expression of honor, because a candle is a beautiful symbol. A flame is a beautiful thing, and even today it’s hard to explain exactly how it works. The physical materials – the wick, the wax, the oil – turn into light. That symbolizes the neshamah (soul) that had been contained in a body and is now only a neshamah. It’s now light. Just like the physical materials that comprise a candle are transformed into light, the body has been transformed into a neshamah, a soul that is now light, shining in Olam Haba (the next world). And when we light the candle and show that we recognize this truth, it gives nahat (satisfaction) to the neshamah.

When someone passes away, that person doesn’t stop existing. The neshamah is real, and it exists in Olam Haba. When the deceased is honored by the family through their lighting a yartzeit candle, it brings the soul great satisfaction.

The symbol of the light that comes from the wax and the wick is an important thing. Light is a tremendous thing. Not only sunlight – even artificial light is such a gift! Every Motzaei Shabbat we recite a special berachah over the gift of artificial light – “boreh me’oreh ha’esh.” This is a berachah expressing gratitude for fire, for electric light, and for other lights. It’s a great blessing to have light. And therefore, the light of the candle is a beautiful symbol. It’s a symbol for the neshamah that has turned from gashmiyut (physicality) into ruhniyut (spirituality). And the neshamah in the next world is happy that people are lighting the candle and recognizing the truth of the next world. It brings nahat to the neshamah.

Is it prohibited to kill an ant that I find in my home, or is this tza’ar ba’alei haim – causing unnecessary harm to animals?

On the street, there’s no mitzvah to kill an ant. An ant is very useful on the street. In the house, however, an ant is like a burglar who has entered into the house; it has no business being in your house. And so, you have a right to kill it. Of course, you can’t kill a burglar today, because they’ll put you into jail for 13 years if you kill a burglar in your home. But an ant you can still kill. It has no right to be in your house.

Therefore, on the street, no, don’t kill an ant - it’s doing good work, causing the earth to be fertilized, helping us have parnasah (a livelihood). But in your house, there’s no question that you can kill an ant.