Writing a Living Will

Jewish tradition encourages writing a living will that clearly states that the health care and post-mortem arrangements should be made according to Jewish law and custom if a person dies or becomes incapacitated. While we have attached sample living wills that have been approved by the Agudath Israel of America and have been tailored to each state, we recommend that you also consult a qualified orthodox Rabbi in your area as well as a qualified lawyer to look over these documents.

The goal of filling out a living will is two fold: (1) to provide a blueprint for how to make medical care decisions when you are incapacitated (2) to provide post-mortem instructions. For instance, while autopsies are routinely performed in Western cultures, Jewish tradition and law considers the body sacred and holy even though the person died. This body housed a holy neshama (soul). Therefore, unless an autopsy is vitally necessary, Jews do not opt for an autopsy out of respect for the sacredness of the body.

By filling this form out, you are engaging in a great mitzvah by ensuring that your health care decisions (if you become incapacitated) and/or your post-mortem decisions will follow Jewish law and custom.

http://www.jlaw.com/Forms/

In addition, one should indicate in his will the following:

1) What property he owns

2) Who owes him money

3) What debts he owes

4) How to allocate one’s property

5) Funeral and burial instructions – that they should be performed according to Jewish law and custom

6) Whether you will give tzedekah from part of your inheritence. It is recorded in our holy Talmud, in masekta Kesuvos page 67B that it is a great mitzvah to allocate a portion of your inheritance to tzedakah.

It is also important to use this time to take an accounting of your spiritual accomplishments and shortcomings. What are the moments in your life you think G-d would be most proud of you? What are some moments that G-d would be disappointed with you? The greatness of the mitzvah of teshuva (repentance) cannot be overstated here. One can do teshuva at anytime. It is foolish to wait only to the last moments of your life to do teshuva because perhaps you won’t have the chance to do it then. Follow the 4 step process for teshuva here. This is probably the greatest mitzvah you can do! As our holy sages said in our Talmud, Masekta Sanhedrin page 43b: “Anyone who confesses is guaranteed a place in the World to Come.”

After you have done teshuva, it is best to take on one small mitzvah to show G-d that indeed you are trying to improve yourself. Examples of small mitzvahs include: lighting Shabbos candles every week, learning the chumash for 5 minutes before you go to bed, joining a minyan, etc.

Jewish Sources that doing Teshuva (Repentence) in your last moment can atone for all the sins of your entire life:

In our holy Talmud, masekta Kiddushin page 40b: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai says “Even if one was an absolutely wicked man all of his days but he repented at the last moment of his life, G-d does not remind him of his wickedness any longer – for it says in Ezekial 33:12 “And the wickedness of the wicked man – He shall not stumble over it on the day he repents from his wickedness.â€

This is an unbelievable kindness that G-d gives us, the opportunity through sincere repentance to undo all of our prior misdeeds of our entire life. We must do everything in our power to help our loved one realize this opportunity. It is prudent not to wait until the last possible moment to inform your loved one about teshuva since we will never know when there last moment will be. G-d should give us the opportunity to actualize this amazing chesed (kindness).

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.