Death is a time of life that holds meaning for the dying, their family and friends, their community—and us.
“Most of Torah’s teaching is about how to live. But there is a special section within its wisdom that also speaks to us about how to die. Since we are all mortals, our lives fashioned somehow around the awareness that death is inevitably to come, this is one of the important lessons…. There is something profound to be learned about the way of dying, and it is best learned from the wisdom and stories of those who have gone before us.”
—from the Foreword
Students of the Hasidic masters wrote down the stories of the last months, days, hours and moments of the lives of their rebbes. A compilation of their experiences, called The Book of Departure (Sefer haHistalkut), first published in Hebrew in 1930, brings together the rich end-of-life stories of forty-two holy men who died between 1760 and 1904, as well as their philosophical forebearer, Isaac Luria. Featuring new pastoral commentary in a unique facing-page format, this English presentation of heart-touching deathbed tales sheds light on Jewish traditions about death, the afterlife and how to care for people in their final days.
“A compassionate and comforting guide to the end of life…. We learn about what dying individuals fear, hope for and care about, and about how family and professionals can sensitively accompany them to their ends. The blend of scholarship and practical sensibility make this volume an invaluable resource.”
—Rabbi Dayle Friedman, author, Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older: Finding Your Grit and Grace Beyond Midlife; spiritual director, Growing Older (www.growingolder.co)
“Filled with striking stories and wise interpretations. It will be a comfort and a guide to both those facing death and those who love them.”
—Rabbi David Wolpe, author, Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times
“A rich goldmine of wisdom…. Recognizes death not as a physical endpoint but as a graceful transition to other realms of knowing and being…. This is a book to be read, studied and savored for all who are wrestling with mysteries of life and death.”
—Simcha Raphael, PhD, founding director, DA’AT Institute for Death Awareness, Advocacy and Training, Department of Psychology, Bryn Athyn College
“Unique and impressive…. Their focus on the stories of the passing of Hasidic masters provides spiritual, ethical and personal insights that can easily be adapted to our current society…. A worthy addition to the growing discussion on meaning and purpose as life ebbs.”
—Rabbi Richard F Address, DMin, director, Jewish Sacred Aging, LLC (www.jewishsacredaging.com)
“Deeply in dialogue [with God] about the meaning, purpose and timing of death…. You will be stimulated to talk with your loved ones to transmit the ethical and practical details needed for your own end-of-life planning.”
—Angelo Volandes, MD, MPH, cofounder and president, ACP Decisions; author, The Conversation; faculty, Harvard Medical School
Rabbi Joel H Baron is a hospice chaplain at Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL) Hospice Care in Boston.
Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow is the director of Spiritual Care at Hebrew SeniorLife.
Arthur Green renowned spiritual leader, author and teacher, is one of the world’s preeminent authorities on Jewish thought and spirituality. He is author of Judaism’s Ten Best Ideas: A Brief Guide for Seekers, among other books.