Note to Caregivers

It is vital that as a caregiver, the best thing we can do for our loved one is to be there for them in their time of need and follow the guidelines outlined in our Torah and presented in this website as best we can. The closer we follow G-d’s guidelines, the better off our loved ones will be, and the higher we will elevate their soul.

It is important that in all major medical decisions, you consult with a qualified local orthodox Rabbi. Some major principles that will help guide you in the final moments, though, are that a person is considered to be alive with all of the liberties of a living person up until their last moment, and a person can in no way hasten another’s death since this is likened in Judaism to actually shedding their blood.[1]

You should also keep in mind that although the world appears only physical, it is also governed by spiritual laws which are outlined in the Torah. While it is natural to put all of our hope and faith in the ability of the doctors administering our loved one, it is also extremely important to remember that G-d, not the doctors, is in complete control. The more you pray for your loved one the better are their chances. Please see the section on how to pray for your loved one.

Instructions for those Present at the Time of Death (Comprehensive):

1. Once death seems imminent, you should not leave the person alone. It would be insensitive to leave someone in their most vulnerable time. This abandonment could also hasten a person’s death. [2]

2. Someone should get the person’s spouse, children, and parents to be present at the person’s passing if this is possible.

3. Everyone present should recite psalms so that their loved one will fully recover, or everyone should pray in their own words for our loved one’s recovery. One cannot ever give up hope. [3]

4. Those in the room should show their concerns and hope, but should not cry too loudly since this will cause your loved one great pain. [4]

5. You may converse with your loved one if that is what your loved one wants. It is best to discuss Torah related thoughts since it is a great merit to leave this world while involved in holy matters.

6. Unless it is for life-saving measures, once the person goes into the throes of death, it is forbidden to touch them as this may hasten their death, which in Jewish law is likened to shedding actual blood. [5]

7. It is forbidden to stand at the foot or the head of the bed while your loved one passes or even before their passing since the shechina, G-d’s divine presence, rests at the head of the bed. [6]

8. When the person passes, some candles should be lit. If possible place a candle towards the head of their bed.

9. There are special laws for a Kohen while he is present at someone’s death. Normally, a Kohen may not be present at the time of someone’s passing or be within 6.5 feet of a dead body if he is not in the same room. However, the Kohen may be present if the person dying is his father, mother, son, daughter, brother from the fathers side i.e half brother from their common father, half unmarried sister from their common father, or wife[7]


[1] YD 338:1

[2] YD 339:4

[3] The Ran (Nedarim 40a DH Ein, learns from death of Rebbi (Kesuvos 104a) that if it seems that there is no hope of recovery, just prolonging life in agony, it is a Mitzvah to pray that he die. Igros Moshe (CM 2:73:1 and 2:74:1 DH v’Af): Rebbi’s slave saw that the prayers were not helping for Rebbi’s recovery; and not even to alleviate his suffering, only to prolong his life. She saw his affliction and realized that it is proper to pray that he die. Our Tefillos are not accepted as well as theirs were. Heaven forbid that we conclude that it is better to pray that someone die! However, if doctors see that there is no chance for recovery, only to continue living amidst affliction, they should not give drugs to prolong life. One may not do an act to hasten death, even a moment. This is murder. One must do nothing. The Rema (339:1) allows removing things that prevent death..

[4] YD 338:1

[5] SHach 339:5

[6] Nedarim 40a

[7] married according to halacha

Disclaimer

The articles are not meant to be halachic rulings, so please contact a posek regarding your situation. Our website is intended to be a helpful guide, but for everything contained in the articles, or to the extent that we inadvertantly made a mistake on one of the articles, please contact your local Orthodox Rabbi regarding it.