Tradition & Innovation

Preparing for Death

Jewish law is adamant that a dying person is treated with the same respect due any living person. The mitzvah of visiting the sick is of great importance and it is a privilege and an honor to sit with a dying person, offer comfort, and ease her through this passage. To be presentto listen, to touch, to accept, to apologize, to forgiveare all invaluable gifts to one who is preparing for death and probably to oneself as well. Many Jews throughout history have written ethical wills, sharing the sum of their life’s learning with their descendants. It is also traditional to say a final confession, or vidui, as the end of life approaches. Today, given medical advances, end-of-life issues have assumed greater importance. Jewish tradition forbids hastening death and at the same time permits removing impediments to death. Knowing whether removing life support constitutes one or the other is a decision best made with medical experts, family members, and spiritual guides.


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