Rabbi Alvin Fine´s beautiful and inspiring prayer in Gates of Repentance reminds us that:
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey…
A sacred pilgrimage to life everlasting.
Properly understood, death is a stage in the journey of life. The recognition that life is finite and that death is a reality that must be anticipated and accepted is one of Judaism’s most profound insights. Nonetheless, confronting our mortality and that of those dearest to us is one of life’s most difficult tasks. For some, the subject of death is considered morbid. But if we fail to plan ahead and avoid making essential decisions, death catches us unprepared, confused and uncertain about what to do, making the process of mourning even more painful and burdensome. It is far better, healthier and kinder to our loved ones to face the inevitable with fortitude and convey our wishes to those who will survive us.
This guide has been prepared to help the members of our congregational family and their loved ones understand Jewish practices with respect to the death, funerals and mourning. It is intended for reading well in advance of death, when the mind is clear and the heart is not heavy. Read it, share your feelings with dear ones and discuss the issues that should be faced during life. This guide will also prove useful for consultation when death approaches or occurs. Put it where you will have ready access to it in time of need.
This booklet is not encyclopedic; it is a concise, modern guide that draws upon the insights of Jewish tradition, values and practice. Reform Judaism, with its special sensitivity to individual needs and preferences, empowers us to fashion a response to death that is personally meaningful as well as Jewishly authentic. There is no single correct way. The decisions are yours.
Please know that your rabbis and cantor are ready to assist with the many aspects of preparing for and coping with death. Feel free to contact any of us with questions and concerns and be sure to notify the congregational office when a death is imminent or has occurred. One of us will respond as soon as possible with comfort, counsel and the assistance you may need in making necessary arrangements. We want to do whatever we can to help you and, ultimately, to bring you closer to the Source of life, in whose unity no one is alone and every life finds purpose.
L’shalom u’veracha – in peace and blessing,
Rabbi Richard A. Block
(click on section titles to navigate to page)