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Jewish FAQ on Death and Mourning

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God will destroy death forever. My God will wipe the tears away from all faces.--Isaiah 25:8

Books for Jewish Shiva and Mourning
(click on a listing for more information or to purchase it)

[book] Mourning & Mitzvah
A Guided Journal for Walking the
Mourner's Path Through Grief to Healing
A Paperback by Anne Brener
Jewish Lights. 2001 update
For those who mourn a death, for those who would help them, for those who face a loss of any kind, Brener teaches us the power and strength available to us in the fully experienced mourning process. Guided writing exercises help stimulate the processes of both conscious and unconscious healing. "A stunning book! It offers an exploration in depth of the place where psychology and religious ritual intersect, and the name of that place is Truth." --Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] The Mystery of the Kaddish
Its Profound Influence on Judaism
by Leon Charney with Saul Mayzlish
October 2006, Barricade Books
Leon Charney, pundit, tv host, attorney, real estate investor, and former advisor to President Jimmy Carter, is best known, to me, for frequently singing a song of mourning on his TV program. So I was not surprised when he wrote a book on the kaddish. It is more accessible than Leon Wieseltier's book on the Kaddish. The Kaddish is considered by millions to be a special prayer one recites for the dead. It isn't. This mystical ritual was created during the Crusades as a homage to God. Those who have lost a loved one and recite the prayer faithfully on 52 Friday nights may have wondered why there is no place in the prayer for the name of the lost loved one. This book contains much new information as it traces the evolution of the Kaddish. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning
(Revised and Expanded Edition)
by Rabbi Maurice Lamm
JD, 2000 update
For over thirty years Jews have turned to Rabbi Maurice Lamm's classic work for direction and consolation. Selected by The New York Times as one of the ten best religious books of the year when it was first published in 1969, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning leads the family and friends of the deceased through the most difficult chapter of life-from the moment of death through the funeral service, the burial, and the various periods of mourning. Now, in this thoroughly revised and expanded edition, Rabbi Lamm explores a wide range of new issues and questions that Jews of the twenty-first century must address. Special consideration is given to the subjects of organ donation, autopsy, the question of a woman's right to say Kaddish, mourning practices as they relate to the stillborn, the permissibility of converts to Judaism to mourn their Gentile parents, and the bereavement rights of individuals who by Jewish law are not required to mourn but who nonetheless wish to express their grief in accordance with Jewish tradition. In addition to exploring the sensitive issues that the contemporary mourner must confront, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning is remarkable in that it gently leads the mourner through the corridors of Jewish law and teaches the aching heart how to express its pain in love and respect so that it might begin on the road to eventual healing. . Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Consolation
The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief
by Rabbi Maurice Lamm
JPS, 2005
In this, his sequel to the best-selling The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning (over 350,000 copies sold), Rabbi Lamm helps mourners not just get through their grief, but also grow through it. He gently steers mourners on the path that allows their sorrow to teach them important lessons about life. And he shows consolers how to listen and speak with their hearts so that they can provide real comfort to others. His marvelous insights on the days of shiva, the year of kaddish, and the lovingkindness of others reveal the richness and true purpose of Jewish mourning rituals and customs. They prepare us to receive consolation and ready us for the journey that will take us beyond grief. His "Words for a Loss When at a Loss for Words" is a treasury of readings for finding and giving comfort by transforming the spiritual ideas of an ancient faith into contemporary language. Here there are stories and fables that illuminate our complicated lives, meditations from the depths of human experience, and a gallery of unforgettable images that speak to our souls during times of loss . Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Saying Kaddish
How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead, and Mourn as a Jew
by Anita Diamant
Anita Diamant's knowledge, sensitivity, and clarity have made her one of the most respected writers of guides to Jewish life. In Saying Kaddish, she shows how to make Judaism's time-honored rituals into personal, meaningful sources of comfort. Diamant guides the reader through Jewish practices that attend the end of life, from the sickroom to the funeral to the week, month, and year that follow. There are chapters describing the traditional Jewish funeral and the customs of Shiva, the first week after death when mourners are comforted and cared for by community, friends, and family. She also explains the protected status of Jewish mourners, who are exempt from responsibilities of social, business, and religious life during Shloshim, the first thirty days. And she provides detailed instructions for the rituals of Yizkor and Yahrzeit, as well as chapters about caring for grieving children, mourning the death of a child, neonatal loss, suicide, and the death of non-Jewish loved ones. Anita Diamant's knowledge, sensitivity, and clarity have made her one of the most respected writers of guides to Jewish life. In Saying Kaddish, she shows how to make Judaism's time-honored rituals into personal, meaningful sources of comfort. Diamant guides the reader through Jewish practices that attend the end of life, from the sickroom to the funeral to the week, month, and year that follow. There are chapters describing the traditional Jewish funeral and the customs of Shiva, the first week after death when mourners are comforted and cared for by community, friends, and family. She also explains the protected status of Jewish mourners, who are exempt from responsibilities of social, business, and religious life during Shloshim, the first thirty days. And she provides detailed instructions for the rituals of Yizkor and Yahrzeit, as well as chapters about caring for grieving children, mourning the death of a child, neonatal loss, suicide, and the death of non-Jewish loved ones ple. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Grief in Our Season
A Mourner's Kaddish Companion
by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky
Jewish Lights
From Jewish tradition: Strength for the first year of mourning.Jewish tradition encourages us to study as a way of honoring the memory of those we love who are no longer among us. The study of sacred texts helps us to forge a link in the chain of tradition, shalshelet hakabalah, that reaches into the past and forges a connection with the future.This wise and inspiring book provides a carefully ordered selection of sacred Jewish literature for mourners to read each day, to help hold the memory of their loved ones in their hearts. It offers a comforting, step-by-step link to the Jewish tradition of Kaddish (the memorial prayer recited for the year following the death), and a means to secure the memory of the person mourned, for an eternity.A placemarker flap, outlining the steps of each daily sequence, is an additional aid to mourners as Grief in Our Seasons guides them through the year of Kaddish-to healing, comfort, and remembrance through Jewish tradition. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] The Jewish Mourner's Book of Why
by Alfred J. Kolatch
JD, 1993
Following the question-and-answer format of his best-selling Jewish Books of Why, the author explores the reasons behind the multitude of laws, observances, customs, and traditions that relate to Jewish death and mourning. The answers to the almost five hundred questions are concise, direct, and unbiased, reflecting the practices of Jews of all denominations. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Kaddish
by Leon Wieseltier
From Publishers Weekly: When his father died in 1996, Wieseltier began to observe the Jewish rituals of the traditional year of mourning, going three times daily to synagogue to recite Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. Between the prayers and his daily work as literary editor of the New Republic, he sought out ancient, medieval and modern Jewish texts in an effort to understand the history and meaning of Kaddish. He discovered that early texts dictated that the mourner's kaddish be recited only on Saturday nights, but the prayers were prolonged so that the souls of the sinners of Israel released from Gehenna would not hurry back to hell. Wieseltier reports that through his study and practice of Kaddish he realized that the past is at the mercy of the present. "The present can condemn the past to oblivion or obscurity," he notes. "Whatever happens to the past will happen to it posthumously. And so the saga of the family is also the saga of the tradition." Wieseltier provides a work of history, philosophy and spiritual memoir where he deals with the meaning of freedom and the perplexity of tradition. His book demonstrates how the practice of religion meets the needs of a troubled soul. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Living a Year of Kaddish
A Memoir
by Ari Goldman
Schocken, 2003
The best-selling author of The Search for God at Harvard continues his spiritual quest in this heartfelt and poignant account of the year he spent saying kaddish for his father. The day after Ari Goldman celebrated his fiftieth birthday his father died of a heart attack, and Goldman began the ritual year of mourning required by Jewish law. There were the obligations (the daily recitation of kaddish in a synagogue quorum of ten), the prohibitions (no listening to music or buying new clothes), and the self-examination that the death of a parent and the mourning rituals triggered. Death meant coming to terms with a father he loved but never fully understood, in part because of his parents' divorce and its stormy aftermath. Goldman explores the emotional and spiritual aspects of spending a year in mourning, as he examines its effects on him as a husband, father, and member of his community. Left without parents (his mother died four years earlier), he is no longer a son to anyone, but he comes to understand that through the daily recitation of kaddish, he can both connect with and honor his mother and his father in a way that he could not always do during their lifetimes. And in his daily synagogue attendance-usually near his Manhattan home but also, during the course of his travels in Israel, the Catskills, and France-he finds his fellow worshipers to be an unexpected source of strength, wisdom, and comfort. Living a Year of Kaddish is a deeply affecting journey through grief, loss, and acceptance-a book that will resonate for people of all faiths who struggle with the inevitability of losing the ones they love. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] To Begin Again
The Journey Toward Comfort, Strength, and Faith in Difficult Times
by Rabbi Naomi Levy
Ballantine Books (September 7, 1999)
From Publishers Weekly: Levy's debut offers a progressive Jewish approach to coping with life's darker moments. Having faced the murder of her father when she was 15, Levy joined the first class of women to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Drawing on her own suffering and her experience as a rabbi, she constructs a map for personal renewal in the tradition of Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Initially, Levy deals with misfortune and addresses what can be done in the aftermath of a loss. Learning to face sadness and to share one's pain are essential elements in the author's understanding of recovery. Further on, through stories about her family and members of her congregation, Levy details how adversity can be a positive force, leading people to open their hearts to God. She doesn't promise simple solutions, however. Her last chapters illustrate how pain can be a permanent part of life, and how coping is an ongoing process. Though Levy offers much constructive wisdom, some of the stories she presents seem stretched to fit her message. Characters cry at just the right cue and various prescriptions seem to work in just the right way in nearly every episode she describes. But even if pat at times, Levy's treatise offers helpful ideas in a neatly organized fashion, as her deep experience and knack for colorful storytelling bring life to a somber subject . Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Talking to God
Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration
by Rabbi Naomi Levy
After the publication of her best-selling book To Begin Again, Naomi Levy received a flood of feedback from readers telling her how much the prayers in it had helped and moved them. Many urged her to publish a collection of her prayers-and now she has. In a time when we all need inspiration, comfort, and connection, Talking to God will help us reclaim prayer as an integral part of our lives, making it as natural and uninhibited as talking to our loved ones. Prayer is essential to the lives of millions, but many of us are searching for ways to supplement traditional prayers with ones that are less formal and more intimate. Written in a simple and direct style, the prayers in this book-and the wonderful stories that accompany them-are for people of all faiths, and for all occasions large and small. Naomi Levy's personal prayers address the anxieties and roadblocks we all face in contemporary life. There are prayers for facing a new day, realizing one's potential at work, celebrating an anniversary or birthday, and going to sleep at night. And there are prayers for the more profound occurrences in life-love and marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, illness, loss, and death. Rabbi Levy's words, imbued with grace and empathy, touch on the entire range of human experience. Many of us will recognize ourselves in her prayers and stories and will be comforted by them, as well as challenged and uplifted. Perhaps most important, they are stepping-stones for us to go on and create our own prayers, to find meaning in our own lives, and to begin or renew our own relationships with God. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] A Time to Mourn, a Time to Comfort
A Guide to Jewish Bereavement (The Art of Jewish Living)
by Ron Wolfson, and Rabbi David J. Wolpe
Jewish Lights, 2005
A guide to meeting the needs of those who mourn and those who seek to provide comfort in times of sadness. While this book is written from a laypersons point of view, it also includes the specifics for funeral preparations and practical guidance for preparing the home and family to sit shiva . Advice is given for attending a Jewish funeral, how to help during shiva, what to say to the mourners, and what to write in a condolence letter. Special sections deal with specific situations of modern life, including helping young children grieve and understand shiva, deaths from AIDS, and mourning the death of an infant or child. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Does the Soul Survive
A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife,
Past Lives & Living With a Purpose
by Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz
Jewish Lights, 2002
Near-death experiences? Past-life regression? Reincarnation? Are these sorts of things Jewish? With a blend of candor, personal questioning, and sharp-eyed scholarship, Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz relates his own observations and the firsthand accounts shared with him by others, experiences that helped propel his journey from skeptic to believer that there is life after life. From near-death experiences to reincarnation, past-life memory to the work of mediums, Rabbi Spitz explores what we are really able to know about the afterlife, and draws on Jewish texts to share that belief in these concepts--so often approached with reluctance--is in fact true to Jewish tradition. Click the book cover to read more.

[book] Making Loss Matter
Creating Meaning in Difficult Times
by Rabbi David J. Wolpe,
with an intro by Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie)

Hardcover - 226 pages.
Rabbi Wolpe, author, Penn grad, son of a rabbi, brother to a rabbi, JTS teacher, leader of Los Angeles' Temple Sinai, and wise man, explores the meaning of loss, and the way we can use its inevitable appearance in our lives as a source of strength rather than despair. Click to read the dozens of reviews.

[book] Against the Dying of the Light
A Father's Journey Through Loss
by Leonard J. Fein

Jewish Lights Publishing. 2001. 144 pages.
How one father's grief over his daughter's sudden death offers a philosophy of abundant living. Leaonard Fein is the founder of several Jewish social action groups and Moment Magazine and Mazon. "The company of the bereaved is a company connected by memory and loss-but in the end, each member of that company experiences both memory and loss uniquely, alone." -from Part I How do you explain a seemingly senseless tragedy? What does it mean to be an observer of your own life? In this unusual exploration of heartbreak and healing, Leonard Fein chronicles the sudden death of his 30-year-old daughter and shares the hard-earned wisdom that emerges in the face of loss and grief. With the rich support of his community, Fein anguished, questioned, and ultimately coped with the death of his daughter by wrestling with some of life's toughest questions. The answers he discovers in the course of his own mourning process provide not only comfort to others in "the company of the bereaved" and strength to those who face personal tragedy, but also wisdom for all who search for life's meanings. Against the Dying of the Light leads us to a different, surprising understanding of the gifts that life and the quest for understanding have to offer.

A New Judaic Approach To Illness and Dying

By Lewis D. Solomon, Professor of Business Law, George Washington University.
328 pages. Univ Press of America. Rabbi Lewis Solomon (post-denominational New Seminary) is the author of The JEWISH BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING. The Yale Law graduate and Professor of Law has written this new book to help readers make better, more informed choices as they or their loved one face fatal illnesses, frailty, debility, chronic incurable conditions, mental weakness and dependency, and hopelessness. The book allows readers to face their choices from the perspectives of Jewish tradition (from Orthodox to liberal). Chapters include topics of "Why Me? Why Now? Why This? Looking at Suffering from the Perspective of Jewish Tradition"; Withholding or Withdrawing Treatment...; Facing a Life Threatening or Chronic Illness; End of Life Decisions and Jewish Tradition; Ten Suggestions...; A Loved One's Perspective on a Patient's Plight; Planning Ahead; Questions for Patients (such as what quality of mental and physical life do you desire, Finances, Depression, Isolation); Organ Donations and Advance Care Directives; and Our Search for a "Good Death." Also includes topics of Death Bed Rituals, Visualizations, Offering Prayers Outside a Sufferer's Presence, Suggestions on Meeting a Patient's Needs, Meditations, Petitionary Prayer, Affirmative Prayer, Prayers of Surrender, Developing Faith, Phys. Assisted Suicide, Jewish Law and Aggressive Pain Relief, Artificial Nutrition and Hydration and Jewish Tradition, the soul and immortal essence in jewish thought, Job, The Role of the Physician (Sanhedrin 37a; Leviticus 19:16)

[book] LIVING WITH LOSS, Healing with Hope by Rabbi Earl A Grollman
Beacon Books. (November 2000) A compassionate guide for Jewish mourners.
Click here to order this book from, read more reviews, or to add your own review.

[book] Grief in Our Seasons: A Mourner's Kaddish Companion.
By Rabbi Kerry Olitzky.

Jewish Lights, 448 pages. Offer mourners a prayerbook for one complete year of mourning. There is at least one passage and a meditation for each day of the mourning cycle. There is also space for you to add your own thoughts, feelings, and reflections.
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[book] Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope
A Jewish Spiritual Companion for Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
by Rabbi Nina B. Cardin.

Hardcover - 150 pages (March 1999) Jewish Lights. Our matriarchs, Sarah, Rivka, Leah and Rachel all had problems with conception and delivery. As did hannah (Samuel). A guide through the pain of childlessness and loss. As reviewed in Lillith Magazine, "the author's own experiences with two miscarriages 20 years afi were a startling lesson in how unprepared the Jewish community has been to deal with this type of loss. But she has been struck over the years by how much Jewish prayer and liturgy has the potential to offer comfort and solace for these very lossses. Her book is an amalgam of both traditional and contemporary prayers and rituals which can help a family and person who has experienced such a loss..." Cardin provides a workbook like approach for every step in the grieving process, and for every type of loss associated with potential motherhood... the reviewer continues, "I was most struck by the many prayers she has found for continuing to love and honor your mate, one of the hardest things to remember to do when consumed by grief."
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[book] The Death of Death : Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought by Neil Gillman
List Price: $24. Hardcover - 336 pages (May 1997) Jewish Lights Pub. Is there a heaven? Where does the idea for an afterlife come from? Does this idea exist in Judaism at all? With his pipe dangling from his lips, I sometimes see Professor Gillman, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, dropping by my local newsstand on the Upper West Side. Just as one dives into a Sunday New York Times, Gillman dives into the quagmire and confusion and takes on the idea of death in Judaism. This survey starts in the Garden of Eden. After the expulsion, he examines the various ways Judaism has confronted death, dying, and afterlife. Throughout, he compares the doctrines of bodily resurrection and spiritual immortality. If you have ever wondered what Judaism "believes" about death and afterlife, read this study.
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