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Ethical Wills

Haverim,

Thanks for your thoughtful participation in the Ethical Wills workshop at the 2012 Los Angeles Chevra Kadisha conference.

In addition to the handouts, I've included my teaching notes (with blessings) all in one document. If you have any questions about offering this workshop, I would be glad to help.

May you find blessing in writing your ethical will.

Muriel Dance, Ph.D., M.J.S
Chaplain
424-248-0733 (h)
206-718-2946 (c)

 


 

 Bring:  tissues, writing paper, variety of pens, pitcher of water, red ribbon (candle if permitted)

Ethical Will Workshop

Opening, Intention Setting and Audience Definition

1.      Start with Prayer, as breath, the creator breathed into the first human being,

2.      Oh Source of Life, who gave us our unique spark,  help us today we work to express that unique self to those we care about, provide us the calm, the wholeness, the safety we need as we set about this sacred task.  Amen

3.      Biblical origin of ethical will, based in an oral tradition, Jacob calling his 12 sons together to bless and instruct them--over time people started to write their ideas as a more intentional way to transmit their ideals, qualities, experiences that were closest to them to teach to those who were dear to them.  And sometime we can bring humor into what we write. Questions about ethical wills?

4.      Many have difficulty writing an ethical will, or a legal will or an advanced directive because it's difficult to accept our mortality.  BREATH

5.      This workshop will give you some writing prompts that will generate the material that can be revised into a document, and an atmosphere that will help you overcome some of that resistance.  BREATH

6.      It also helps to imagine who you are writing to-children, grandchildren, spouse, special friend, sibling....  BREATH

7.      To start that process, let's read what some other adults writing an ethical actually wrote.  Skim the list and see if there's one that leaps out at you or if there's a word of phrase that draws you in.  BREATH

8.      Who'd like to start?

9.      What's it like to hear the ways other adults have begun their ethical will?  BREATH

 

Writing prompts-I will offer a series of four writing prompts.  You will have 5-8 minutes to write whatever comes from your mind or your heart on to this page.  Be sure you keep your audience in mind and write freely.  Banish your internal editor, your critic.  You want your words and your feelings to emerge.  You will not have to share anything you write, although there will be some time for selected sharing if you want.

1.      List of 13 principles that are important that I want to convey  (5-8 minutes)

This is very personal and there is no need to share-BREATH

What's this space like of writing about what's important to you that you want to convey?

Is there anyone who would like to share one principal, maybe one that surprised you by emerging onto the paper?

2.      Ten Personal Commandments/Wishes (6-7 minutes)  Give example.

What's this space like of writing about what you wish for?

Is there anyone who would like to share one commandment or wish, maybe one that surprised you or that seems a bit humorous?

As you look at what you've written, do you have any thoughts about what you might do next?  When you're at home in a quiet reflective space?

3.      Three experiences of failures/struggle/obstacles (6-7 minutes)

What's this space like of writing about failures, struggles?

Is there anyone who would like to share one experience?

As you look at what you've written, do you have any thoughts about what you might do next?  When you're at home in a quiet reflective space?

4.      The miracles/blessings/joys of  your life (7-8 minutes)

What's this space like of writing about miracles?

Is there anyone who would like to share one experience?

As you look at what you've written, do you have any thoughts about what you might do next?  When you're at home in a quiet reflective space?


Next Steps (handout)

Some people find it helpful to identify a trusted partner

a.       Share-anything left out

b.      Ask for a date to complete

c.       When to share?

Body-You have been generating material for the heart-the body of your will.  I hope you have lots of concrete details, experiences.  As you refine the material here are some larger questions to ponder

1.      The one lived truth that I know and want to communicate

2.      One of the questions that has accompanied me much of my adult life

3.      My most meaningful religious holiday/tradition/memory is...

4.      How would distill the essence of your spiritual tradition?

Opening

a. Praise for the person(s) you are addressing is a good way to begin. 

b. Use own words

Ending--Consider using a blessing

 

We have been through a process that may have generated some deep thoughts, reflections, experiences.  You have opened your heart and looked inside.  We now are going to bring this experience to a close.  BREATH.  You may want to take one of the ribbons on the table, to actually roll your draft of your ethical will closed and tie it.  BREATH

As you refine your ethical will, I've suggested that you might consider ending it with a blessing.  I'm going to end this workshop with offering you a blessing.

May you be blessed with the honesty of Jacob, one of the biblical patriarchs, who looked into the faces of each of children, saw their essential nature and offered them a blessing.

May you be blessed with the courage of Miriam, one of the biblical foremothers, who took up her tambourine and sing the Hebrew slaves through the parting waters of the Red Sea.

Handout Evaluations

Openings

"This effort will speak to you from the tomb.  Years of infirmities lead to the reflection that we must soon part.  I am perfectly resigned to meet the last earthly event, grateful to God for the blessings He has given me."                                                                                               Grace N. 1831

 "My dear son:  You are going to leave us perhaps forever as human nature is frail and we do not know how long it may please God to spare us but we must hope to meet again, please God.  I hope dear son that you may always remember the advice given to you by one that you are more dear to than life..."                                                                                                       Hannah A. 1838

"My dear ones all:  My last will and testament you will find to be an expression of my impartial love and my desire to be just to all.  If I failed, it is but through the limited, very limited wisdom given to all that is earthborn.  My soul soars higher.  This is to be to you as a voice from the unknown beyond.  I will and bequest that you do not mourn for me, but rejoice after my bereavement.  I still love to be with you and for you ...."                                                                       I.M.R. 1895

"My dearly beloved children:  I have tried so often to write a letter to you to read when once I have closed my eyes for the sleep eternal.  It comes to me at wakeful nights and ever so many things as thoughts present themselves, what I would want to have you know or be.  But to put them on paper is quite a different thing; they are sacred thoughts and hard to put on paper where they seem quite different.  But as this is a heart to heart talk with those who are dearest to me on earth, it must be like a little testament."                                                                                   Augusta R. 1910

"To my dear children. You know how hard I worked and tried my utmost to give you the best I could afford in food, shelter and education, to lead an honest, clean, and respectable life.  Therefore, I plead with you to uphold my wishes as follows.                                           William S. 1932

"Whensoever death shall come, it will find me unafraid.  I pray that it may find me ready.  I have tried so to live that I might be prepared to meet my God.  I love life and the exquisite gifts of work, play, joy....                                                                                                  David D.P. 1970

"This is my farewell.  If I have done any harsh thing to anyone in this world, I am sorry and ask to be forgiven.  Of one think I am certain:  I have always enjoyed the respect, love and confidence of my brothers.  And this is something, a sort of portable treasure, to take along with me where I go, if I go anywhere."                                                                                           Monroe L. 1973

"My Dear Children:  Tradition warns us that one of the signs of a false prophet is his claim to foretell the future.  How much care should we ordinary beings then take in refraining from glib statements regarding what will be in the days to come.  Therefore I cannot say what way your lives will differ from the path my life has taken.  All I can recount here are my hopes, dreams and desires for spiritually rich, rewarding and productive lives for you both..."                                  Marcia L. 1979

 

Next Steps in Writing Your Ethical Will

Find a Trusted partner

1.      Share-ask the question-is there anything left out

2.      Ask for a date to complete

3.      When to share?

Body of the Will-You have been generating material for the heart-the body of your will.  Keep the details and as you refine the material here are some larger questions to ponder

1.      The one lived truth that I know and want to communicate

2.      One of the questions that has accompanied me much of my adult life

3.      My most meaningful religious holiday/tradition/memory is...

4.      How would distill the essence of your spiritual tradition?

5.      Wisdom and experience to pass on

Opening

1.      Praise for the person(s) you are addressing is a good way to begin. 

2.      Use own words

Ending--Consider using a blessing

Resources:

So That Your Values Life On-Ethical Wills and How to Prepare Them. Ed. Jack Riemer and Nathanial Stampfer.  Woodstock:  Jewish Lights Publishing  1983

http://www.ethicalwill.com/

Muriel Dance, Ph.D. M.J.S. Chaplain, available for individual appointments, Monday and Wednesday  afternoons  424-652-8452 or Muriel.Dance@gmail.com.