Death & Mourning

Before Death

Inspiration

When accompanying a person who is leaving this plane of existence, it is customary to offer a confessional prayer which is known as a vidui. Even in our final moments of life, we express our regrets and our hopes. Nearing the moment of death either the patient or those attending recite an affirmation of God’s unity with all existence, to which we refer as the “Shema.” After the moment of death, it is customary to close the eyes of the departed and cover their body with a sheet or other cloth. Jewish tradition asks that we not leave the body alone to the extent possible. In the mystical tradition, the soul hovers near the body in the time after death and prior to interment in the ground.

 

Scroll down to find resources for this lifecycle moment. 

Prayer

Short Vidui

I acknowledge before the Source of All
that life and death are not in my hands.

Just as my soul chose to enter this world in life,
so my soul chooses to depart this world in death.

May my life be a healing memory
for those who knew me.

May my loved ones think well of me,
and may my memory bring them joy.

From all those I may have hurt, I ask forgiveness.
To all who have hurt me, I grant forgiveness.

As a wave returns to the ocean,
so I return to the Source from which I came.

שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל, יהוה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, יהוה אֶחָד.
Sh’ma, Yisrael: יהוה Eloheinu, יהוה Echad!
Hear, O Israel: יהוה is our God; יהוה is One.

(Rabbi Rachel Barenblat)

Vidui Deathbed Prayer for Release
אֱלֹהַי וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתַי וִאמוֹתַי, שְׁמַע בְּקוֹלִי. מוֹדֶה / מוֹדָה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ, מְקוֹר הַבְּרָכָה, שֶׁנִשְׁמַתִי וְגוּפִי מְסוּרִים בְּיָדֶךָ. אֱלֹהַי, נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ בִּי טְהוֹרָה הִיא: אַתָּה בְרָאתָהּ, אַתָּה יְצַרְתָּהּ, אַתָּה נְפַחְתָּהּ בִּי, וְאַתָּה שַׁמְּרָהּ בְּקִרְבִּי עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, אַב הָרַחַמִים, שֶׁתִּרְפָאֵנִי רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה. וּכְּשֶׁאֶעֱבֹר מֶעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, אִם הַיּוֹם אוֹ בָּזְמַן עָתִּיד לָבוֹא, תְּחָנֵנִּי וְקְרוּבֵי הָלִבִּי, שֶׁמִתְּחַבְּרִים עִם נִּשְׁמָתִי, לְּהַסְכִּים אֶת פְּנִיַית שֶׁל גַלְגַל הַחַיִים הַזּאת. לְפָנֶיךָ אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן, מְכַפֵּר עָוֹן וְלֹא מַשְׁחִית, אֲנִי סוֹלֵחַ / סוֹלַחַת כָּל שֶׁהֵרֵעוּנִי בְּחַיַי. תִּהְיוּ רְגוּעוֹת לִבּוֹתֵיהֶם וָאֲשַׁלֵחַ מִמֵנִּי כָּל כַּעַס וּכְאֵב מֵהֵם לְתּוֹךְ אֵפֶר הָאָרֶץ. כְּשֵׁם שֶׁסָלַחְתִּי לְאֲחֵרִים, כֵּן תִּסְלַח לִּי מִּכָּל הַחֲטָאִים שֶׁלִי. בִּזְּכוּת זֶה, תִּשְׁמוֹר אֶת נִּשְׁמָתִי בְּשָׁלוֹם וּתִּזְהַר נַפְשִׁי כְּזוֹהַר הַרָקִיעַ לְעוֹלָמִים. אֲנִי מַאֲמִין / מַאֲמִינָה בְּאֶמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה שֶׁתְּקַבֵּל נִשְׁמַתִי בְּאַהֲבָה. גַּם כִּי אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא אִירָא רָע כִּי אַתָּה עִמָּדִי. בְּיָדְךָ אַפְקִיד רוּחִי פָּדִיתָה אוֹתִי יהוה אֵל אֱמֶת. שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יהוה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, יהוה אֶחָד. יהוה הָאֱלֹהִים. יהוה הָאֱלֹהִים. יהוה הָאֱלֹהִים. Elohei v Elohei avotai v’imotai sh’ma b’koli Modeh / Modah ani l’fanecha, M’kor haChayim, shenishmati v’gufi m’surim b’yadecha. Elohai, n’shamah shenatata bi — t’horah hi: Atah v’ratah, atah y’tzartah, atah n’fachtah bi, v’atah m’sham’rah b’kirbi ad hayom hazeh. Uk’she’evor meolam hazeh Im hayom o bazman atid lavo, l’haskim et p’niyat shel galgal hachayim hazot. L’fanecha El rachum v’chanun, m’chapeir avon v’lo mash·chit, ani solei·ach/solachat kol sheheirei·uni b’chayai. Tiyu r’gu·ot liboteihem vashalei·ach mimeini kolkaas uch’eiv meiheim l’toch eifer haaretz. K’sheim shesa;achti l’acheirim, kein tislach li mikol hachata·im sheli. Biz’chut zeh, tishmor et nishmati b’shalom utiz·har nafshi k’zohar harakia l’olamim. Ani maamin / maaminah be·emunah shleimah shet’kabel nishmati bahavah Gam ki eilech b’gei tzalmavet lo ira ra ki atah imadi. B’yadcha afkid ruchi paditah oti יהוה El emet Sh’ma Yisrael, יהוה Eloheinu, יהוה Echad. יהוה haElohim, יהוה haElohim,יהוה haElohim

My God and God of my ancestors, hear my voice.

I acknowledge before You, Source of Blessing, that my soul and body are in Your hands. My God, the soul You gave me is pure: You created it, formed it, breathed it into me and kept it safe in me until now. May it be Your will, Source of Compassion, that You grant me complete healing. But when I pass from this world – whether today or in a time to come – grant me and the beloveds of my heart, whose souls are bound with mine, the grace to accept this turning of the wheel of life.

Before You, God of Mercy and Grace who pardons iniquity and does not destroy, I forgive all who harmed me in my life. May their hearts be at ease, as I release all anger and pain from them into the dust of the earth. As I have forgiven, so may You forgive me all my shortcomings. By this merit, preserve my soul in peace; may my spirit forever shine as the brightness of the firmament.

I believe with perfect faith that You will accept my soul in love. Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Into Your hand I surrender my spirit: You redeem me, God of Truth.

Hear, O Israel, יהוה is our God, יהוה is One.

יהוה is the Eternal God. יהוה is the Eternal God. יהוה is the Eternal God.

Rabbi David Markus

 

Final words:

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד
Shema Yisroel Ado(shem) Elohainu, Adoshem echad (once),

בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
Baruch Shem Kevod L’olam Vaed (3x),

יְהוָה הוּא חָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים
Adonai Hu Ha Elohim (7x)

Texts

‏”על פי ה’” – מלמד שמת בנשיקה‏
Al pi adoshem, At the word of (by the mouth of) Hashem — We learn that he [Aharon] died with a kiss.
—Rashi on Numbers 33:38

נשיקה דמיא כמשחל בניתא מחלבא
Neshika
 — the “kiss” is comparable to (as gentle as) removing a hair from milk.
—Talmud Bavli, Tractate Brakhot 8a

Poem

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver (d 1988)

Psalm

מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד יְהוָ֥ה רֹ֝עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר׃ בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֭שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַהֲלֵֽנִי׃ נַפְשִׁ֥י יְשׁוֹבֵ֑ב יַֽנְחֵ֥נִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי־צֶ֝֗דֶק לְמַ֣עַן שְׁמֽוֹ׃ גַּ֤ם כִּֽי־אֵלֵ֨ךְ בְּגֵ֪יא צַלְמָ֡וֶת לֹא־אִ֘ירָ֤א רָ֗ע כִּי־אַתָּ֥ה עִמָּדִ֑י שִׁבְטְךָ֥ וּ֝מִשְׁעַנְתֶּ֗ךָ הֵ֣מָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי׃ תַּעֲרֹ֬ךְ לְפָנַ֨י ׀ שֻׁלְחָ֗ן נֶ֥גֶד צֹרְרָ֑י דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֝אשִׁ֗י כּוֹסִ֥י רְוָיָֽה׃ אַ֤ךְ ׀ ט֤וֹב וָחֶ֣סֶד יִ֭רְדְּפוּנִי כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑י וְשַׁבְתִּ֥י בְּבֵית־יְ֝הוָ֗ה לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים׃ A Psalm of David. YHVH is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of YHVH for ever.

Song

Keep me in your heart for a while (Zevon), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dscsGRjpxk

Gesher Tzar M’od https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WnEAxa1tFc

Other Resources