Vibrancy of the Deathbed Confession (Vidui) by Jean B. Berman
Vibrancy of the Deathbed Confession (Vidui), based on Learnings from Gamliel Course 4: Nechama (Comfort) by Jean Berman
Raised in a household with Jewish ethical, social, and intellectual values but little prayer of any kind, all my life I have bristled at prayers that ask the Holy One for favors or repent of sins.
In my 60’s, I find myself being drawn into the heart of Judaism. I identify not as simply a Jewish person but as part of the Jewish people. Part of my journey includes searching for meaning behind the words, including those I react unfavorably to and traditions that repulse me. I am coming to value our tradition more, and I am learning to listen deeply within to catch glimpses of understanding and to open to experiences that seems foreign or antithetical to me.
I have always found the concept of vidui challenging. I have come in contact with teachings that have brought some understanding in the moment but little that stayed with me or substantially changed my experience of the Al Cheyt on Yom Kippur. As I began to say daily prayers a few years ago, I picked those that had resonance for me, and Ashamnu was not one I chose. I did not look forward to learning about the deathbed confession (vidui), thinking it was a depressing thing to say at the threshold of moving from the visible world into the invisible one. Having been present at a number of deaths, I have intuitively offered a supportive, silent presence or sang songs that brought comfort. I could not imagine myself encouraging a goses, someone in the process of actively dying, to speak these words.
My heart opened while reading alternative forms of the vidui authored or collected by Alison Jordan (website https://sites.google.com/site/viduivariations/). Reading language that was meaningful to me, learning that a deathbed vidui can help one to unburden, let go and feel forgiven, my perspective changed. Writing my own deathbed vidui brought me a sense of deep peace and of being gathered into the Beloved. A daily reciting brings the feel of my death close, and heightens my joy in being alive.
As Judaism has adapted over the ages to be relevant to people where they are, I now have an age-old ritual made new again that blesses me and gives me another meaningful way to bring blessing to those I serve.
Jean Berman speaks and leads workshops on Honor and Comfort: The Jewish Way of Death and Mourning, Care of the Newly Dead – An Inquiry into Intuition and Tradition, and How Death Enhances Life: Heightening our Awareness. She enjoys walks in nature, kayaking and playing ukulele, and lives on Peaks Island, Maine. She is a graduate of the Gamliel Institute, and a Board member of Kavod v’Nichum.
KAVOD v’NICHUM CONFERENCE
Early registration for the 15th North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference, June 18-20, in San Rafael, California, has been extended for one week to May 8.
Our conference will have intensive workshops on Introduction to Taharah, Infection Control, Communicating about difficult Taharot, Modifying Taharah, Taharah Stories as well as exploring traditional Taharah liturgy, Navigating Taharah Liturgy – A Play, and Taharah liturgy in Maavar Yabbok.
We’ll have an exciting series of workshops on Jewish cemetery issues, including Green Cemeteries, Cremation, Perpetual Care Fund Investments, Record Keeping and Acquiring New Cemetery Property.
What’s different this year is an evolving theme – expanding the work of the Chevrah Kadisha and the Jewish Cemetery by encouraging conversation about end of life plans with the Conversation Project; end of life decision-making with Dr. Jessica Zitter, and communicating about how we die with Dr. Dawn Gross.
There’s much more – see our Preliminary conference program.
Let us know if you are interested in home hospitality.
Consider a Sunday morning pre-conference field trip to Gan Yarok – an environmentally conscious Jewish Green Cemetery.
Sunday afternoon from 2-5 Sam Salkin, Executive Director of Sinai Memorial Chapel, will facilitate an intensive session on starting & managing a community funeral home. Let us know if you are interested in this session. Attendance is by advance reservation only.
Tuesday afternoon after the conference Sinai Memorial Chapel will facilitate a tour of Gan Shalom Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery with an interfaith section. Again, let us know if you are interested – Attendance by advance reservation only.
Register for the conference now. The early rate has been extended for just one week to May 8.
We have negotiated a great hotel rate with Embassy Suites by Hilton. Please don’t wait to make your reservations. We also have home hospitality options. Contact us for information or to request home hospitality. 410-733-3700, firstname.lastname@example.org
TASTE OF GAMLIEL
In 2017, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are again sponsoring a six-part “Taste of Gamliel” webinar series. This year’s topic is From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying.
Each 90 minute session is presented by a different scholar.
The May 21st session is being taught by Rabbi Elliot Dorff, well known author, teacher, and scholar.
Taste of Gamliel Webinars for this year are scheduled on January 22, February 19, March 19, April 23, May 21, and June 25. The instructors this year are: Dr. Dan Fendel, Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Rabbi Richard Address, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and Dr. Laurie Zoloth.
This series of Webinar sessions is free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for all six sessions. These online sessions begin at 5 PM PDST (GMT-7); 8 PM EDST (GMT-4).
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions, and will also receive information on how to access the recordings of all six sessions.
More info – Call us at 410-733-3700 or email email@example.com.
Click the link to register and for more information. We’ll send you the directions to join the webinar no less than 12 hours before the session.
GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES
Gamliel Institute will be offering course 2, Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah, online, afternoons/evenings, in the Fall semester starting September 5th, 2017.
The course will meet on twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in those weeks with Jewish holidays during this course). There will be an orientation session on Monday, September 4th, 2017. Register or contact us for more information.
Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.
You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD 21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organizations, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.
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SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME
If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always interested in original materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.