Jewish law is adamant that a dying person is treated with the same respect due any living person. The Lit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed.” 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 present—to listen, to touch, to accept, to apologize, to forgive—are 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 Lit. Confession. A litany of one’s sins that is traditionally recited on Yom Kippur, prior to one’s wedding, and on one’s deathbed., 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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