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CARING FOR THE SICK Powered By Docstoc

Care of the Sick

Almost all forms of required medical treatment are permitted and indeed encouraged in
Judaism. There are no rules prohibiting blood transfusions or injection on non-Kosher
products, such as insulin.

It may be assumed that any required medical is not prohibited in Jewish law, but
abortion, fertility treatment, organ transplantation and organ donation, or treatment which
is in itself life-threatening or carries a non negligible risk to life, are sensitive issues. In
some cases they are forbidden in Orthodox circles and patients should be encouraged to
seek rabbinic advice, if they so wish.

Orthodox Jewish law has strict rules about modesty. A Jewish patient should, wherever
possible, not be put in a unisex ward.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Jewish practice is the voluntary acceptance by
many Jews of a religious diet. Its purpose is to sanctify the act of eating, by exercising
restraint in what one eats and does not eat. Food which Jews may eat is known as
“Kosher” food; food which they may not eat is known as “non-Kosher” food.

The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday afternoons a quarter of an hour before sunset, and
ends on Saturday evenings just after nightfall. During this period, many Jews do no
creative work; this includes activities such as phoning or writing. Therefore, except in
cases of emergency, observant Jews cannot normally be admitted or discharged on the

Observant Jews would obviously prefer not to undergo an operation or treatment on the
Sabbath, or on any of the major feasts. However, the overriding rule of Jewish medical
law is that all treatment is permitted, and indeed required, if it is necessary to save life.

Care of the Dying

Jewish law prohibits any active intervention which would hasten the death of a terminal
patient. Where a question arises relating to any such intervention, a Rabbi or The Jewish
Community Office (01-4923751) should be consulted.
When a patient is in the process of dying, it is not even permitted, in Orthodox Jewish
law, to move or touch the patient in any manner, as this may hasten death. Obviously, it
is permitted to give pain killing drugs or otherwise improve the comfort of the patient.

Judaism does not a special ceremony of “last rites”, but a patient may wish to recite the
“Shema” as well as a death bed confession known as “vidui”. Most patients will want to
see a Rabbi, and arrangements for this should be made through their local synagogue or
through The Jewish Community Office.

Care of the Dead

Jewish law requires burial to take place as soon as possible after death, and any
unnecessary delay must be avoided. Cremation is not permitted by Orthodox Jewish law.
Progressive Jews do permit cremation.

The eyes of the deceased should be closed, the jaw tilted up, and the hands and feet
placed in their usual position, ie, the hands at the side of the body with fingers open – not
fist-clenched. The body should then be covered with a white sheet, and where possible
should be left unattended after death. Some families may ask to keep vigil and pray by
the body. A Rabbi or The Jewish Burial Society should be contacted.

Practical Summary:

      Life is seen as a gift from God. However, once death comes it is accepted as
       God‟s will.
      It is considered a great kindness to remain with a person during the moment of
      Every Jew hopes that the last words on his/her lips will be the words of the Shema
       (“Here O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one…”)
      News of a death is greeted by the words of blessing: “Blessed are you Lord our
       God, King of the Universe, true Judge….”
      As soon as a death has occurred, seven of the closest family members (onan) are
       chosen to arrange the funeral and to observe the period of mourning.
      Close relatives often tear their garments as a sign of grief.
      At first, the body should remain untouched.
      The body is never left alone. The vigil is shared.
      Ritual washing of the body, a special procedure including prayers and singing at
       various stages, is performed by the „holy society‟.
      Traditionally burial takes place as soon as possible after the death, usually the
       following day.
      Men are dressed in their prayer shawl with the fringes cut off to symbolise the
       final nature of the event.
      Simple unadorned coffins are used, with no flowers.
   There is no preservation of the body, because Judaism believes that the soul
    leaves the body at the time of death and ascends to heaven.
   For Orthodox Jews there is no cremation because the body must be returned to
    Heaven intact. They believe in a physical resurrection. This is the reason that after
    circumcision the foreskins are buried, not incinerated.
   For the first seven days following the funeral (the Shiva) the onan remain in the
    house and do not wash, shave, cut their hair etc or cook. Memorial prayers are
    recited. No social occasions for 30 days.
   Visitors to the grave usually place a stone upon it, rather than flowers, as a mark
    of respect.
   The gravestone may be oriented towards Jerusalem.
   The Jewish Cemetery is in Dolphin‟s Barn.

CONTACT:           Herzog House, Jewish Centre, Zion Road, Rathgar

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