Preparing for Death

Some hasidic rebbes taught their disciples not only how to live, but also how to die.

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In leaving behind the material world, everything had to be surren­dered, even the fulfillment of the mitzvot, or divine commandments. On the day of his death, Rabbi Eisik of Zhydatchov awoke and put on his tallis and tefillin (prayer shawl and phylacteries) as always. Soon after he began the morning prayers, he stopped, rapidly removed the prayer shawl and phylacteries, and said: "Today I am free of tallis and tefillin and mitzvot [commandments], and I shall soon be free of the world." He died that evening.

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Simcha Paull Raphael

Simcha Paull Raphael is an assistant professor in the Department of Jewish Studies at Temple University, and has a private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in bereavement.