Book of the Dead

Was there a Jewish “Book of the Dead”?

I under­stand that the (then) Union of Amer­i­can Hebrew Con­gre­ga­tions (in par­tic­u­lar the Depart­ment of Jew­ish Fam­i­ly Con­cerns) wass begin­ning to work on tools (pro­grams, etc.) to help baby-boomers get­ting old­er.

I think, it’s time to start think­ing about how we die.

I’m con­vinced that there are texts buried in Psalms (per­haps else­where) that are “pas­sage way” read­ings. What I mean by this is that they can be (per­haps were by our ances­tors) used to help the dying indi­vid­ual approach the moment of death. I am aware of many books writ­ten in the past ten years for the sur­vivors of death.


I want a text/book (or per­haps a text-book) that will help me (per­haps let’s start with my 89 year old moth­er) approach and han­dle my own death.

So, what’s one of these texts?

I real­ized one evening after weeks of vis­it­ing a par­tic­u­lar gen­tle­man in the hos­pi­tal that he was not going to get out of there ver­ti­cal. I found I was able to comfort/calm him a bit by soft­ly singing. Two Car­lebach melodies came to mind. Two dif­fer­ent Psalms: Esa Einai and Pitchu Li. Esa Einai made me feel like I (he) was going to get out, with some help.

Pitchu Li, which until then I had always sung very up-beat. But, that evening, soft and qui­et, the words came out beseech­ing­ly. I had an “ah hah!” moment.

I’ve men­tioned this idea to a num­ber of peo­ple involved in Jew­ish “heal­ing” who lis­ten polite­ly. I’ve men­tioned it as a pos­si­ble rab­binic the­sis to rab­binic stu­dents who con­tact me at Nis­us for tech sup­port. Nobody’s picked up on the idea.

Can we do a read­ing of Psalms that search­es for “gates” look­ing for a way of inter­pret­ing these gates not as phys­i­cal gates to a city, but spir­i­tu­al pas­sage­ways to anoth­er “realm”?

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