One of the more requested programs from Jewish Sacred Aging is the one where we discuss the Jewish approaches to end of life decision making. Over recent years, in conversation with numerous congregations and groups, a feeling emerged that there was a need to have some sort of prayer or ritual that could be said when one signed an advanced medical directive and health care power of attorney. After all, as some suggested, this is a very real understanding that we are mortal and that, at some point, life will end. In many ways, it is a sacred event. Too often this is done, without ceremony,in your lawyers office.
As Thankgsgiving approaches and families gather for the holiday and also later on, for Hannukah, it is a meaningful time to begin a family conversation about creating care plans and end of life plans. As part of several discussions with students and colleagues and people from these workshops, we have been given the permission to publish some examples of prayers/rituals that could accompany the signing of an advance directive. Two different approaches to this issue are below in our TALMUD TORAH column. They are from Rabbi Zoe Klein of Los Angeles. Here are three prayer/meditation type expressions that also speak to this issue.
My God and God of all who have gone before me. Author of life and death, I turn to you in trust. Although I pray for life and health, I know that I
am mortal. If my life must end, let me die, I pray at peace.
As I sign this advance directive, I recall the ancient Psalms
Let my mouth’s utterances be pleasing and my hearts’s stirring before You. Adonai, my rock and my redeemer.
Let me know Adonai, my end and what is the measure of my days. I know how fleeting I am.
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Author of life and death.
As I confirm my end of life plans, I remember the ancient Psalms:
For our days slip away. We consume our years like a sigh. But I shall walk in my wholeness, Redeem me. grant me peace.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Author of life and death. ( Thanks to Rabbi Lauren Pack Ben-Shoshen)
Blessed is Adonai, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment in life.
God who has given me the power of choice and who has brought me to strength to make these decisions today.
Thank you for granting me the wisdom to think ahead and to understand the great range of possibilities that could come in the future.
When my time comes that I am no longer able to make decisons on my own behalf, may my wishes be carried out by those who are close to me.
I have been blessed with so much. May my family be at peace with my decisions. May we support one another through good times and bad. May we love one
another and cherish our time together. (Thanks to Tess Levine. Jewish Edcuator)
Eternal God, in this time that______________________has made his/her wishes known we are reminded that life is in partnership with You. While so much
is out of our control, we are grateful that we can make choices in our life, make them known, and have them acted out in the event we can no longer have
the ability to do so ourselves/ Baruch Atah Adoni, Blessed is Adonai who has given us free will and agency in our lives. (Thanks to Rabbi Dan Fliegel)
This idea of creating a ritual/prayer/meditation to accompany the signing of your advanced directive can provide you and your congregation with a powerful means of discussion and, if you create something, can be a meaningful “gift” to your community.This can also be a means to enter into a conversation with your own soul as to your wishes and hopes. Consider the ones we present on the site, think about what you might say as this moment takes place. If you wish, send us what you have created. Thank you. Take care and be well.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.