April 16 marks the annual Health Care Decision Day. This was an idea whose time is very very meaningful. It is a day designed to focus attention on the need for families to have “the conversation” about a person’s wishes regarding end of life care. The advanced medical directive, health care proxy/power of attorney etc are increasingly important in a world in which medical science continues to expand the boundaries of what may be considered life. It is also important to note that the major denominations in Judaism see these documents as “modern mitzvot”. As part of our Jewish Sacred Aging work, we discuss the isssue of how Judaism provides guidance in these moments. The signing of these documents is a real and present understanding of our own mortality. The signing is often done in the privacy of an attorney’s office. Yet, we think that this is a prfoundly spiritual moment when we recognize literally our own death. So, we offer this blessing, created by two of our students a few years ago, as part of a class on the impact of the longevity revolution on congregational life. With special thanks to Tess Levine and Rabbi Dan Fliegel:
Blessed is God who has granted us life, susatined us and enabled us to reach this season.
God who has given me the power of choice and who brought me the 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. 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 no longer have the ability to do so ourselves.
When the time comes that I am no longer able to make decisions on my own behalf may my wishes be carried out by those who are close to me. I have been blessed with so much, and, may my family be at peace with my decisions. May we love one another and cherish out time together.
Baruch Atah Adonai, who has given us free will and agency in our lives.
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.