Once again this coming Monday morning you will not receive a “Rabbi’s Update” from me. I plan to be in New York with my family.
I want to thank the many members of our kehila who have asked me how my father is doing and I want to take this opportunity to update you.
After several weeks in the hospital, my father’s care was transitioned yesterday from “cure-directed care” to “comfort-directed care.” This means he will no longer be poked and prodded and subjected to painful and futile medical interventions and will be kept comfortable until nature takes its course.
Jewish medical ethics forbid us from doing anything to intentionally hasten someone’s death but we are permitted to remove impediments to someone’s death, especially when they are in severe pain.
In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ketubot 104a we read the story of the death of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi, known simply as Rabbi. Rabbi was severely ill but the sages gathered in his home and prayed incessantly that he would not die. But when Rabbi’s maid saw how much pain he was in, she went up to the roof of the house and threw a jar off the roof. The noise of the jar breaking briefly startled the sages who momentarily ceased their praying and Rabbi was thus able to die without their interference.
Halachists and ethicists take this story to mean that, as I said above, while we can’t do anything to hasten someone’s death, we can remove impediments -- including medicines, various machines, and so on. All branches of Judaism agree that we are not obligated to engage in futile medical interventions and can allow someone to pass comfortably and peacefully when there is no hope of recovery.
A reminder that tomorrow, Shabbat morning, November 6, Jacob Sheib, son of Amy and Michael Sheib, will be called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. Jacob and his family will be joined by many of his classmates from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS). Because CESJDS has its own mask mandate which is stricter than County regulations, masks will be required for all in attendance on November 6 even though the County mask mandate is not currently in effect. Please make a note of this and prepare accordingly. (Please also note that for those who plan to attend via Zoom, a different Zoom link will be used that morning which has been linked in our email announcement.)
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian