Torah Study Guides

Torah Study Guides and Personal Reflections related to Jewish End of Life Care

Building a Home with God: Finding Meaning in our Physical and Spiritual Lives
In the weekly Torah reading, Parshat Terumah, we read the instructions for building the mishkan, the biblical home for God. God commands, וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם, ‘They will make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them’ (Shemot 25:8). Rashi describes this home as בית קדושה, a home of holiness, toward which each person gives according to ability. Yet, as we read these descriptions of God’s biblical home, we cannot help but feel the reality that today we do not have the Temple, the biblical model for God’s home. If you were going to build a home for God in your life right now, what would it look like?

Comforting Community of Strangers: Parshat Mishpatim and Our Response to Suffering
In Parshat Mishpatim, God gives the Israelites much of the laws that guide human interactions. God requires Jews to act with empathy, justice, and honesty. Twice, God reminds the Israelites that they may not oppress the stranger, for you know the suffering of the stranger, “כִי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם (for you were strangers in the land of Egypt).” (Exodus 22:20, 23:9). If you know what it is to suffer, you will not cause another pain. The weekly reading shows us that our struggles not only inform our future actions but afford us the opportunity to be better people.

Let the Light Shine – Isolation and the Plague of Darkness
The weekly Torah reading, Bo, ‘Come’, describes the biblical plague of darkness. While we usually understand this plague as an embodiment of God’s might, we may instead explore the plague of darkness as an insight into the human experience of isolation. We often describe loneliness and hopelessness as a state of darkness, a predicament in which we are unable to see light or hope. We are rendered frozen and helpless to respond proactively or even logically to our pain. We see no one else but ourselves and internalize a pervasive sense of otherness.

Vayechi ‘He Lived’ – Finding Life and Blessing at the End of Life
The weekly Torah reading entitled Vayechi, ‘He lived’, details the final moments of our ancestor Jacob’s life. As illustrated in this poignant title, Jewish tradition values a life lived, with its ups and downs, even in the midst of death. For those who are given the opportunity to be with their loved ones at the end of life, comfort and quality of life have the ability to transform a time wrought with pain and worry into one of lasting love and peace.

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