January 16, 2019

Expired And Inspired: Ghosts in the Machine

Expired And Inspired - the Kavod v'Nichum Blog on Jewish End-of-Life Matters

Expired And Inspired – the Kavod v’Nichum Blog on Jewish End-of-Life Matters

You may have been wondering why you haven’t seen an Expired And Inspired blog from Kavod v’Nichum for a bit. I am almost sorry to say that the reason is no mystery (it would be so much more interesting if there were some odd or mysterious reason).

In fact, a major switch in technology platforms has discombobulated things. (Caveat: upgrading technology can truly bite the hand that tries it!)

Until now, it has not been possible to post anything, and we are working behind the scenes to get things sorted right. The move to a new platform, as so many of these things do, disconnected links, dropped information, and failed to include all the postings from the past several years. In short, it created a royal mess!

The reason for the move was to improve appearance, streamline delivery, add functionality and features, and overall make the blog experience better for all concerned. At the same time, we can see the operation of the ‘law of unintended consequences’ once again.

As I said, we are working on sorting it out, but meantime, I am going to highlight selected past postings from the archive. Once we get things back to “normal” I will again start posting new materials. To that end, if you have a story or something you want to share that relates to our focus on Jewish end-of-life, caring, comfort, and/or death, please send it to me as a submission for consideration. I can assure you that it will receive due consideration and attention – and ideally, will appear ‘in print’ soon.

As a reminder of what we are about, I am posting today the original message that started this blog.

Welcome to Expired & Inspired.

Don’t be fooled by the title. This is not your everyday blog. It is not a self-help blog. It is not about feel-good stories (though there may be some). It is not about Yoga. It is not about breathing. It is not what most people would pick as a best seller. And yet, it is about something that fascinates, mesmerizes, frightens, attracts, and affects all of us.

What is this blog?

It is a blog about death and dying – and the Jewish ways thereof.

It is about the Jewish rituals, forms, customs, behavioral norms (and not-so-norms), about Jewish ideas and thoughts on and around this topic. It is about how Jews approach death and the dead, how they treat them, what they do, and how they do it.

It is about transforming a physical task into a holy act; bringing sanctity and compassion to souls who are in need of it.

It is really about caring for and honoring the dead and comforting the living; the sacred, loving work of helping to bring closure and peace at the end of life to those who have died, and comfort to those who care about them.

“Expired and Inspired” is Kavod V’Nichum’s blog on Jewish life end, death, funerals, and comfort. The name refers to the interplay in Jewish life when the living care for the dead, and are in turn inspired by that act and by those who have died. The care they provide consists of respectfully and lovingly preparing the deceased, those who have expired, for the next step on their excursion. The living are inspired by the expired deceased. We invite you to come behind the scenes, and join us as we perform our sacred tasks and “midwife souls on their journey.”

The topic of death and dying has long been taboo. Because death comes to all of us, and touches most of us in life, it needs to be open for discussion – though not in a morbid fashion: there are aspects of this part of life that are beautiful and touching.

The death of a loved one is sad, but the sacred, holy work in which we engage can be spiritual, loving, transformative, and life-affirming. Talking about it should not be ‘taboo’ or avoided. There is even room, at times, for humor, as well as awe, love, and honor, as we explore this universal part of life.

Expired and Inspired is intended to educate, reveal, and share stories in an interesting and compelling way about the people involved, and the Jewish process, rituals, and activities that include Bikkur Cholim and the work of Caring Committees (whatever title they may have), and all aspects concerning the Jewish approach to the end of life, death & dying, the full range of the work of the Chevrah Kadisha – the Holy Society that provides care for the deceased, and comfort for mourners and those bereaved.

Accompany us as we draw back the curtain a bit, and let you see our work, the results of it, and how it affects those of us who do it, and others. Join us as we offer you an aspect, a viewpoint, a glimpse of the transformative power of the work we do.

Rabbi Joe Blair holds two part-time pulpits, is a principal in Jewish Values Online, is a board member and serves on the staff of Kavod V’Nichum, an instructor and Dean of Administration for the Gamliel Institute, and is the editor of Kavod v’Nichum’s Expired And Inspired blog. He can be contacted at j.blair@jewish-funerals.org




From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying.

In 2017, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are again sponsoring a six part “Taste of Gamliel” webinar. 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. Taste of Gamliel gives participants a “Taste” of the Gamliel Institute’s web-based series of courses. The Gamliel Institute is the leadership training arm of Kavod v’Nichum. The Gamliel Institute offers five on-line core courses, each 12 weeks in length, that deal with the various aspects of Jewish ritual around sickness, death, funerals, burial and mourning. Participants come from all over the United States, Canada, Central and South America, with a few Israelis and British students on occasion.

Taste of Gamliel Webinars are on January 22, February 19, March 19, April 23, May 21, and June 25. Learn from the comfort of your own home or office.

The Taste sessions are done in a webinar format, where the teacher and students can see each other’s live video feeds. The sessions are moderated, ask participants to raise their virtual hands to ask questions, and call on and unmute participants when appropriate. We’ve been teaching using this model for seven years (more than 250 session). We use Zoom, a particularly friendly tool.

Webinar sessions are free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for all six sessions. Online sessions are 90 minutes. Sessions begin at 5 PM PST; 8 PM EST.

Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. Those registered will also reveive access to recordings of all six sessions.

The link to register is: http://jewish-funerals.givezooks.com/events/taste-of-gamliel-2017

You will receive an automated acknowledgement of registration. Information and technology assistance is available after you register. Those who are registered are sent an email ahead of each webinar with log on instructions and information.

You can view a recording of the sessions after each session, so even if you need to miss one (or more), you can still hear the presentation.

More info – Call us at 410-733-3700   

Attend as many of these presentations as are of interest to you. Each session is about 90 minutes in duration. As always, there will be time for questions and discussions at the end of each program. 

The entire series is free, but we ask that you make a donation of $36 or more to help us defray the costs of providing this series. That works out to $6 for each session – truly a bargain for the valuable information and world class teachers that present it.

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.

Suggestions for future topics are welcome. 





Gamliel Institute will be offering course 4, Nechama [Comfort], online, evenings in the Spring on Tuesdays (and three Thursdays – the day of the week will change in those weeks with Jewish holidays during this course). The date of classes will be from March 28 to June 13 2017. Please note: due to holidays, classes will meet on Thursdays on April 13th, April 20th, and June 1st. There will be an orientation session on Monday, March 27th, 2017.


If you are not sure if the Nechama course is for you, plan to attend the Free one-time online PREVIEW of Nechama session planned for the Monday evening March 6th, 2017 at 8-9:30 pm EST. The instructors will offer highlights from the material that the course covers, and let you know what the course includes. You can RSVP to info@Jewish-Funerals.org.

You can register for any Gamliel Institute courses online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or look at information on the Gamliel Institute at the Kavod v’Nichum website or on the Gamliel.Institute website. Please contact us for information or assistance. info@jewish-funerals.org or j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or 925-272-8563.



Looking ahead, hold June 18-20, 2017 for the 15th annual Kavod v’Nchum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference.

15th Annual North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference

At Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, California June 18-20, 2017

Registration is now open. Advance prices are good through the end of February. Group discounts are available.
The conference program will include plenaries and workshops focused on Taharah, Shmirah, Chevrah Kadisha organizing, community education, gender issues, cemeteries, text study and more.

The conference is on Sunday from noon until 10pm, on Monday from 7am to 10pm, and on Tuesday from 7am to 1pm. In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six Kosher meals as part of your full conference registration. There are many direct flights to San Francisco and Oakland, with numerous options for ground transportation to the conference site.

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  info@jewish-funerals.org


Donations are always needed and most welcome. Donations 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.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).



If you would like to receive the Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent an email link to the Expired And Inspired blog each week by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.


Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

To find a list of other blogs and resources we think you, our reader, may find of interest, click on “About” on the right side of the page.There is a link at the end of that section to read more about us.

Past blog entries can be searched online at the L.A. Jewish Journal. Point your browser to http://www.jewishjournal.com/expiredandinspired/, and scroll down. Along the left of the page you will see a list of ‘Recent Posts” with a “More Posts” link. You can also see the list by month of Expired and Inspired Archives below that, going back to 2014 when the blog started.



If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.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, Shomrim, funeral providers, funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.