COMPASSIONATE JEWISH and INTERFAITH DEATH, BURIAL, MOURNING, AND MEMORIAL OBSERVANCES WEBSITE
Home
DYING RITUALS
AFTER DEATH RITUALS
SAMPLE FUNERALS
SITTING SHIVA
MOURNER'S KADDISH (Ashkenazi)
MOURNER'S KADDISH (Sephardi)
EL MALAY RACHAMIM
HASHKABAH
BURIAL KADDISH (Sephardic)
CONTACT THE RABBI
DYING RITUALS

PSALMS TO BE RECITED DURING THE PROCESS OF DYING

A GUIDED JOURNEY THROUGH THE "VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH"

DEATH

Death itself, we are taught, has no meaning unless Life has meaning. If one is not able to live, one is less able to die. Alexander the Great asked the sages of the nehggev 2300 years ago: "If one wishes to die, what should one do?" They replied: "One should live." Meaning, the quality we invest in living later translates into the quality we reap in dying.

Or as the Talmud puts it: hi al'ma k'bay hee'lu'la dam'yeh, "This world is like a house of celebration" - the more we celebrate living, the better prepared we will be for the transition to dying, because the empowerment gained from the celebration of life will carry us through the transition of death. Akin to the strength we gather from a party for what awaits us after the party.

Sleep is one-sixteeth of Death (Babylonian Talmud, B'rachot 57b)

The most potent experience in the body is that of sexual climax. Why? Because it is the closest glimpse we have of the realm beyond Life. What is the mystery of sex? Usually the body experiences blissfulness from what it takes in. But in sex, the body experiences bliss by what it sends out, surrendering of itself - which is what happens at death, when the body sends out the soul, surrendering of itself. Thus, the sages taught that sexual climaxing is akin to the bliss waiting in the next World (Babylonian Talmud, B'rachot 57b)

Three days are for weeping;
Seven days are for grieving;
Thirty days are for eulogizing;
Eleven months are memorializing.
After that, don't behave as if you have a greater compassion than God.
(Babylonian Talmud, Mo'ed Katan 27b)

As is written in Jeremiah 22:10 - "Do not cry for the dead, and do not lament for them. Weep rather for the one who is dying and shall never again return to the land of the living."

Grieve for the one who is dying, to get it out of your system, as is written:
"Weep rather for the one who is dying" (Jeremiah 22:10)

Visiting the sick removes from them one-sixteeth of their illness
(Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzi'a 30a)
[by permission of Rabbi Gershon Winkler]

During the period immediately prior to death, when a Jewish "shaman-rabbi-prayer person" is helping the dying person to make the transition from this life to the next, after the recitation of the VIDUI-CONFESSION and the traditional Prayers for the Dying (see below), the following fifteen Psalms of Ascent (Shir ha'maalot) should be recited in a soft, rhythmic undertone chant.

These "ha'maalot" Psalms represent the fifteen steps in the rising, going up, (aliyah) of the nefesh (soul) as the neshamah (God-Breath) is returned to the One Source who breathed it into the person at the time of its birth. The nefesh is first purified and purged of all imperfections and then allowed to "exist" in heavenly bliss until it is time to be re-breathed back into earthly existance again, and again, and again....

These Psalms were chanted during Temple times, as one ascended the Fifteen Steps leading from the Court of the Women (the Birthers) to the Court of the YISAR-EL (those who discern between the two Voices of God), in the Temple Court (symbolically representing the Afterlife). These Fifteen Steps were symbolic of the Journey of the Soul from this life-space to the Chambers of the Soul. The person ascending these Fifteen Steps was SYMBOLICALLY enacting in life the journey he/she would take upon death, through the Desert Wilderness, and into Heavenly Bliss.

The MOURNER'S KADDISH (which is recited twice in each of the daily synagogue prayer services - with community) contains fifteen praises of God, corresponding to the fifteen Songs of Ascent.

Too, the Yishtabach Prayer that concludes the Pesukay Dezimrah section of the morning Shachrit service, contains fifteen praises; and in the prayer sequence recited following the "SH'MA": "True, enduring ... good and comely" - there are fifteen aspects besides "true."

Also, the verse in the Torah that describes the Foundation Stone that Jacob placed under his head for a pillow (Genesis 28: 11) has fifteen words, each word representing a "stone-Psalm" that became one stone.

The Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6: 24-26, also has fifteen words, as does the verse "Then I will remember My covenant with Jacob" in Leviticus 26: 42.

ALL OF THESE PASSAGES ARE SYMBOLICALLY REFERRING TO THE FIFTEEN SONGS OF ASCENT AND TO THE JOURNEY OF THE SOUL FROM DEATH TO REINCARNATION.

THE SONG OF ASCENTS (Shir Ha'Maalot), based upon the teachings of the Rebbe, HaRanit and his student, Zhenya Senyak.

THE SONGS OF ALIYAH OF THE SOUL UPON DEATH

FIRST ALIYAH - Distress - Psalm 120
El-YHVH batzaratah lee karati vaya'anayni
In my distress I called upon ADONAI and I was answered.
The time of seperation of the neshamah (soul) from the body.

SECOND ALIYAH - Hope - Psalm 121
Esa einai el heharim, me'aiyin yavo ezree
I lift up my eyes towards the mountains from where my Help comes.
The seeing of the Eternal Light at the end of the tunnel.

THIRD ALIYAH - Rising Up - Psalm 122
Bayit YHVH naylekh
Let us go up to the House of ADONAI.
The release of the neshamah on the physical body (death).

This is the time of departure from the physical body. DEATH takes place. The NESHAMAH, the God-Breath, is inhaled back into the Ocean of the Divine. Now begins the Soul's Journey towards dis-incarnation. The ALIYOT begin!

THE SONGS OF CROSSING THE SEA OF FINALITY

FOURTH ALIYAH - Supplication - Psalm 123
Chanaynu YHVH, chanaynu
Be gracious towards us ADONAI, be gracious towards us.
The neshamah cries for support from those left behind (and to the Source) to help it rise out of the physical plane.

FIFTH ALIYAH - Deliverence - Psalm 124
Lulai YHVH shehiyah lahnu... ahzi ahvar al-nafshaynu ha'mayim ha'zaydonim
If ADONAI were not with us... the raging waters would have washed over our soul.
The faith to cross through the Waters of Finality, knowing that the neshamah is to be delivered from chaos and darkness.

SIXTH ALIYAH - Attachment - Psalm 125
Ha'botcheem b'YHVH l'olam yeshev
Those that join themselves to ADONAI...abide forever.
The attachment of the neshamah to the Source of Life that draws the soul back to its origins.

SEVENTH ALIYAH - Jubilation - Psalm 126
Hayinu kh'choleem
We were as dreamers.
The Song after successfully crossing over as on dry land into the Desert Wilderness.

There is great joy at the soul's surviving the passage through the waters between the Worlds of Assiyah and Yetzirah into the expanse of the Desert Wilderness. The journey begins!

THE SONGS OF PURGING, PURIFICATION AND REDEMPTION

EIGHTH ALIYAH - Submission - Psalm 127
Im-YHVH lo-yivneh bahyit
If ADONAI does not build the house...
The journey through the Desert Wilderness requires a release of personality.

NINTH ALIYAH - Joy In Submission - Psalm 128
Ashrey kol-yirah YHVH, hacholekh be'ad'rakhav
Happy are all who hold ADONAI in awe; those who walk on the path.
The neshamah accepts with joy the Path through the tunnel towards the Source of Light.

TENTH ALIYAH - Contemplation - Psalm 129
Al-gabee charshu chorsheem
The plowers plowed upon my back.
The final look back on the dead body, the scene of the mourners, the funeral, the burial, etc. Also, a review of the life that the soul experienced.

ELEVENTH ALIYAH - Forgiveness - Psalm 130
Ki-imkha ha'slichah
For with You is forgiveness.
The neshamah goes through the forgiveness process; forgiving all who have brought hurt, pain and ill feelings into its life. It forgives itself too.

The journey through the Desert Wilderness has cleansed us of our sins (our mistakes, blemishes, errors, and rebellion). We now return to the Path of ADONAI with acceptance as a PURE SOUL.

THE SONGS OF COMFORT, HOMECOMING, UNIFICATION AND BLISS

TWELFTH ALIYAH - Comfort - Psalm 131
K'gamul 'alee nafshee
With me, my soul is like a weaned child.
The sense of well-being and ease that comes with the arrival at the Chambers of Dead Souls (The Promised Land).

THIRTEENTH ALIYAH - Homecoming - Psalm 132
Zot-menuchati 'aday-ad po eishev
This is my resting place for Eternity; Here I will dwell.
The sense of timelessness and rest.

FOURTEENTH ALIYAH - Unification - Psalm 133
Hinei mah tov umah-naaim
Behold, how good and pleasant it is.
The companionship of family and kindred spirits as one is folded back into the Breath of the Divine Breather.

FIFTEENTH ALIYAH - Bliss - Psalm 134
Hinei barkhu et-YHVH kol-avdee YHVH
Behold, I bless ADONAI and all servants of ADONAI.
The thinning of the veils, opening to the Divine Eternal Light. The preparation to make GILGUL, a returning again; either in the body of a descendant or in the form of some other living being (nefesh chayya), like a tree, grass, a rock, or some other form of life.

We have arrived at the Upper Chamber of Souls! The veils have parted. We are now part of the LIGHT! We now await the time of our re-birthing into a new life, to begin the cycle over again.

- Loosely based upon "The Hebrew Book of the Dead," by Zhenya Senyak.

The SABBATH (Shabbat) is equaited in Jewish tradition with "entering into the Garden of Eden" for a period of 24 hours. Death is also viewed as "entering into the Garden of Eden (Gan Eden)." It is as though one returns to Gan Eden every Shabbat in preparation for the major return at the time of Death.

On the Sabbath, it is the custom to recite the "Songs of Ascent" (Psalms 120-134) AND Psalm 103 (Barkhee nafshee). The latter is recited because it describes the creation of the world. This Psalm is also thought by Kabbalists to be describing the PROCESS that takes place in the World of Briyah (Creation) between Death and Re-Birth.

These sixteen Psalms are recited anytime that one needs a protection from the Sword of God, which, in our folklore, punishes those who do not keep the Sabbath and deliberatly desecrate it.

Another reason that "Barkhee Nafshee" is recited on the Sabbath is that on the Sabbath everyone who keeps the Sabbath merits an additional "Sabbath Soul." This is seen by Kabbalists as a hint of the process of the RENEWAL OF THE SOUL in preparation for reincarnation. On to Psalm 103!

THE SONG OF REVIEW AND REINCARNATION AND REBIRTH - PSALM 103

Verse 1: L'daveed - Barkhee nafshee et YHVH v'khol k'ravai et Shem Kadsho

For the Beloved - My blessings and my soul are ADONAI's; with everything I draw near to the Holy Name.

Verse 3: Hasoleyach l'khol 'avoneykhee harofey l'khol tachaluaykhee

The One who forgives all your iniquity, is the One who heals all your diseases.

Verse 4: Hagoeyl mishachat chyaikhee ham'atreykhee chesed v'rachameem

The One who redeems your life from the grave, is the One who crowns you with lovingkindness and with mercy.

Verse 5: Hamasbee'a batov 'edyekh titchadesh kanesher ne'uraykhee

That satisfies your progress in time with good things, so that your youth is renewed as an eagle.

Verse 6: 'Osey tzedakot YHVH umishpateem lekhol 'ashukeem

ADONAI does acts of righteousness, and judgments for all oppressed peoples.

Verse 7: Yodee'a derakhav leMosheh livney Yisrael 'aleelotav

(God) made the Path known to Moses by the actions of the people Israel.

Verse 8: Rachum vechanun YHVH erekh apayim verav chased

ADONAI is compassionate and shows grace, is slow to anger and is abundant in lovingkindness.

Verse 9: Lo lanetzach yareev v'lo le'olam yitor

(God) does not quarrel for eternity; nor hold anger forever.

Verse 10: Lo khachataeynu 'asah lanu velo kha'avonoteynu gamal 'aleynu

(God) does not deal with us according to our mistakes, nor repay us according to our deliberate transgressions.

Verse 11: Kee khigvoha shamayim 'al haaretz gavar chasdu 'al yereyav

As the heavens are high above the earth, so is lovingkindness intensified towards those who are in awe of God.

Verse 12: Kirchok mizrach mima'arav hircheek mimenu et pesha'aynu

As the East is far (opposite) from the West, so (God) has created distance between our transgressions and ourselves.

Verse 13: Kerachem av 'al baneem richam YHVH 'al yereyav

As the compassion of a father is upon his children, so ADONAI has compassion for those who are awestruck of God.

Verse 14: Kee hu yada' yitzraynu zakhur kee 'afar anachnu

As God knows our inclinations; it is because God remembers when we were dust.

Verse 15: Enosh kechatzeer yamav ketzeetz hasadeh ken yatzeetz

A human-being is as grass; one day he blooms like a flower;

Verse 16: Kee ruach 'avrah bo veaynenu velo yakeerenu 'od mekomo

As a wind passes over him, he is gone; and there is no recognition of his place.

Verse 17: Vechesed YHVH me'olam ve'ad 'olam 'al yireyav vetzidkato livney vaneem

ADONAI's lovingkindness is for an eternal witness, forever, on those in awe of God, and righteousness is for their descendants;

Verse 18: Leshomrey vereeto ulzokhrey fikudav la'asotam

For the guardians of the Covenant and for those who remember to be committed to doing them.

Verse 19: YHVH bashamayim heykheen kiso umalkhuto bakol mashalah

The throne of ADONAI is in heaven; and God's kingdom is to have sovereignity over all.

Verse 20: Barchu YHVH malakhav giborey khoach 'osey devaro lishmo'a bekol devaro

Source of blessing is ADONAI; the angels are mighty powers doing God's word; they heed the voice of God's word.

Verse 21: Barchu YHVH kol tzevaav meshartav 'osey retzono

Source of blessing is ADONAI; All the hosts (of heaven - the angels) are God's servants that do God's will.

Verse 22: Barchu YHVH kol ma'asav bekhol mekomot memshalto barkhee nafshee et YHVH

A Source of blessing is ADONAI; with all of God's works, in all the places where God rules; my soul will bless ADONAI.

VIDUI SHAKHEEV MERA' - CONFESSION AND PRAYERS FOR THE DYING

RABBI GERSHON WINKLER'S VERSION OF THE VIDUI

The person who is dying, whose soul is ebbing from its home in the body, is draped in a tallit. The bystanders help them to wash their hands ritually, three times over the right, three times over the left. The dying person then does a little Yom Kippur either verbally or in their thoughts, reflecting on their life, asking for forgiveness for having wronged people, etc., and if they are able to, they recite Psalms 4, 6, 121, 145. As they feel themselves at the door of death, they recite Psalm 22 and 29 (13th-century Rabbi Moshe ibn Nachmon, quoted in Choch'mat Ahdam, No. 151).

The dying person then lifts his or her hands to the heavens and declares:

"Creator of the universe. I hereby actively and with integrity accept upon myself Death, and I do so with joy and with whole-heartedness, to fulfill the mitzvah that incorporates all mitzvot by joining myself with you and becoming one with your sacred Name. Bring me into the mystery of the Feminine Waters (may nuk'va), so that I might by my death unify the Sacred Wellspring with the Shechinah in awe and in love, and draw forth from Above to Below, level by level, from your Flux, so that my rising from earth to heaven be a bonding between creation with creator. May my respite be in peacefulness. Sh'ma yisro'el, ah'do'nie elo'hey'nu ah'do'nie e'chad!"
(13th-century Rabbi Moshe ibn Nachmon, quoted in Choch'mat Ahdam, No. 151). - from personal correspondence from Rabbi Gershon Winkler

A REB ZALMAN SCHACHTER-SHALOMI VERSION OF THE "VIDUI"

Ribono Shel Olam,
I hereby forgive
Whoever has hurt me,
And
Whoever has done me any wrong;
Whether it was
Deliberately or by accident,
Whether it was
Done by word or by deed,
In this incarnation
Or in previous ones.

May no one,
Be punished on my account.

May it be Your will,
O L~rd my G~d,
G~d of my parents,
That I sin no more,
That I do not revert
to my old ways,
That I do not anger You any more with my actions,
That I do not do that which is evil in Your sight.

Wipe away the sins
That I have committed,
With Your great compassion,
But not through
Sickness or suffering.

May these words
Of my mouth,
And the prayers
That are in my heart,
Be acceptable before You,

O L~rd,
My Rock and my Redeemer.

God, You made me.

From before I was born,
You took me through my life.

You supported me.

You were there with me when I wasn't there with You.

There were times I was sick and You healed me.

There were times I was in despair
and You gave me hope.

There were times when I felt betrayed
that I could still turn to You.

It was a wonderful life. I loved and I was loved.
I sang, I heard music, I saw flowers,
I saw sunrises and sunsets.

Even in places when I was alone,
You, in my heart, helped me turn loneliness
into precious solitude.

I look back over the panorama of my life;
what a wonderful privilege this was!

I still have some concerns for people in the family,
For the world, for the planet.
I put them in Your Blessed Hands.

I trust that whatever in the Web of Life
that needed me to be there
Is now completed.

I thank You for taking the burden from me,
And I thank You for keeping me in the Light.
As I let go, and let go, and let go... and let go.
(with permission of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi)

TRADITIONAL VIDUI (from The Book of Prayer of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews)

Ribon Haolameem (Sovereign of Eternity), Lord of forgiveness and mercy, ADONAI my Creator, and the Creative Force of my ancestors, may it be Your will that the good deeds that I have done during my lifetime on this earth atone for the wrongs that I may have committed.

You know that I am afflicted; "before Your guiding rebuke there is no health in my body; because I may have made some error my body knows no peace."

God of forgiveness, grant me now to know Your loving mercy, "and do not enter into final judgment with Your servant."

If now the appointed hour for my death has come, to my last breath let my mouth not cease to declare Your Unity as is written in Your Torah; "Sh'ma Yisrael, ADONAI Elohaynu, ADONAI echad (Hear O Israel, YHVH our Creator-God, YHVH is ONE!)

Barukh sheym kavod malkhuto l'olam va'ed (Source of blessing be the Holy Name and glorious sovereignity for eternity)

Modeh anee lifanekha ADONAI Elohai v'Elohay abotai... I thank You, Infinite Creator-God and Creative Force of my ancestors; Creator of the Creative Forces of the Winds for all flesh; my healing rests in Your hand. My death also rests in Your hand. May it be Your will to grant me a perfect and complete healing. May my Thought-Angel come before Your Presence and deliver to You my prayer as was the prayer of King Hezekiah, who lay on his sick bed but was granted extra years.

However, if it is now the appointed time for me to die, at least let my death atone for the errors, wrongs and mistakes that I have committed during my life.

Grant that my destiny is to be unified in You; my breath with Divine Breath; and that I be judged worthy of the life to come that is the reward of the righteous. "Allow me to know the Path of Life, the fulness of joy in Your Presence; at Your right hand, bliss for eternity.

Source of blessing are You, ADONAI, who hears prayer!

The Jews of Rhodes and Turkey add:

ANA BEKHOACH GEDULAT, YEMINEKHA TATEER TZERURAH (Please, (O God), by the power of Your great right hand, release the soul that is bound).

KABEL RINAT 'AMKHA, SAGBAYNU TAHARAYNU NORAH (Accept the prayer of Your people; strengthen us, purify us,Awesome One!)

NA GIBOR DORSHAY YICHUDEKHA, KEBABAT SHAMRAYM (Please! Mighty One, those who seek Your Unity, preserve them as the pupil of Your eye).

BARKHEYM TAHARAYM RACHAMEY TZIDKATEKHA, TAMEED GOMLEYM (Bless them, purify them, [may You] always bestow the compassion of Your benevolent righteousness upon them).

CHASEEN KADOSH BEROV TUVEKHA, NAHEYL 'ADATEKHA (Mighty, Holy One, in Your abundant goodness guide Your community).

YACHEED GEYEH L'AMEKHA PENAY, ZOKHREY KEDUSHATEKHA (Unique One, Exalted One, turn to Your people who exclaim Your holiness).

SHAV'ATAYNU KABEL USHEMA' TZA'AKATAYNU YODEY'A TA'ALUMOT (Accept our petition and hear our cry, (You who knows the hidden thoughts).

SOFTLY:
BARUKH SHEYM KEBOD MALKHUTO L'OLAM VA'ED (A source of Blessing is God's Name, Whose glorious kingdom is everlasting).

VIHEE NO'AM ADONAI ELOHAYNU 'ALEYNU, UMA'ASEY YADEYNU KONENAH 'ALEYNU, UMA'ASEY YADEYNU KONENEYHU (May the pleasantness of ADONAI, our Creator Force of Power, be upon us, and upon the work of our hands; establish it for us, yes - the work of our hands, establish it).

They also recite Psalm 91; Ezekiel 1: 1; Isaiah 6: 1-3, followed by the following verses:

SHEMA' YISRAEL, ADONAI ELOHAYNU, ADONAI ECHAD (Listen Israel: ADONAI is our Creator Force of Power, ADONAI is One!)

ADONAI HU HAELOHEEM; ADONAI HU HAELOHEEM (ADONAI is Creator Force of Power; ADONAI is Creator Force of Power!)

ADONAI MELEKH, ADONAI MALAKH, ADONAI YIMLOKH L'OLAM VA'ED (ADONAI is Ruler, ADONAI was Ruler, ADONAI will be Ruler for eternity).

MOSHEH EMET. VETORATO EMET (Moses is true and the Torah is true).

LEESHUATEKHA KIVEETEE ADONAI (For Your salvation I await, ADONAI).

SAMEYACH NEFESH 'ABDEKHA, KEE ELOHEKHA ADONAI NAFSHEE ESA (You gladden the soul of Your servant, for to You, my Source, I offer up my soul).

BEYADEKHA AFKEED RUCHEE PADEETAH OTEE ADONAI EL EMET (Into Your care I entrust my spirit; You redeem me ADONAI, Force of Truth).

SHEMA' YISRAEL, ADONAI ELOHAYNU, ADONAI ECHAD (Listen Israel: ADONAI is our Creator Force of Power, ADONAI is One!)

TO LEARN THE ECOREBBE'S TEACHINGS ABOUT LIFE AFTER DEATH, REINCARNATION, AND RESSURECTION, CLINK ON THIS LINK

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR ORGANIZATION, CLICK ON THIS LINK

TO LEARN THE TEACHINGS OF THE ECOREBBE, RABBI GERSHON CAUDILL, CLICK ON THIS LINK