Chapter 21 | Conclusion

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rabbi Uriel Ganzel, Rabbi Shaul Baruchi

Chapter 21 from the booklet The Halakhot of Treating a Terminally Ill Patient and a Patient Suffering From Dementia

Rabbi Yuda, son of Rabbi Simon said: Abraham demanded old age […] the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: On your life, you demanded a good thing, and it will start from you […] and since our forefather Abraham arose, He gave him old age, as it is stated: “And Abraham was old, etc.” (Genesis 24:1).

Isaac demanded suffering […] the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: On your life, you demanded a good thing, and it will start from you […] and since Isaac arose, He gave him suffering: “And his eyes were dim” (Genesis 27:1).

Jacob demanded sickness; he said before Him: If a person dies without sickness, he will not settle [his affairs] for his sons; as a result of being sick for two or three days, he will settle [his affairs] for his sons. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: On your life, you demanded a good thing, and it will start from you, this is as it is written: “One said to Joseph, behold your father is sick” (Genesis 48:1).

Bereshit Rabba, 65.

There are many beautiful and blessed aspects of reaching old age, and throughout the sources we read of the revered status of the elderly.

Yet the challenges that accompany the ageing process, all too often associated with some degree of disease or suffering, almost inevitably transform this stage of life into a difficult and frustrating time both for the elderly themselves and their families.

Our Sages highlight the blessings and goodness associated with the symptoms of old age, sickness, and even suffering. After a life beset by perpetual suffering and disaster, our forefather Jacob ended his life peacefully, sustained by his family, and he blessed each and every one of them and instructed them before his death. As he departed from the world, he was surrounded by his children: “And when Jacob had finished charging his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed and expired, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33). It appears that the progression of Jacob’s disease was ultimately a healing process, both for him and his family. King Hezekiah, according to the same midrash, was also fortunate enough to experience a novelty: through him we learn that people can recover from certain life-threatening diseases.

Fortunate is he who is supported and cared for by his family throughout this difficult process. Fortunate is he who merits to perform authentic kindness, by caring for his elderly parents and family members. Fortunate is the family that comes together for the good of the patient, by supporting one another.

We very much hope that the principles we have laid out above will help patients and families cope with disease and with the physical and emotional pain and challenges that come with it. Our sincere prayer is that even when medical recovery might prove elusive or even impossible, the lessons we have shared will be a source of comfort and insight in approaching the inevitable realities of end-of-life.

We pray that the Holy One, blessed be He, will heal and comfort those who are sick and alleviate the pain of those who suffer. “O Lord, by these things men live, and by all that is the life of my spirit; You will heal me and revive me” (Isaiah 38:16).

At Tzohar we are here to answer your questions and assist you in difficult times. Please call  us at any time (24/6) at *9253 in Israel, +972 52 580 8800 internationally or write to us at

We stress that the purpose of this essay is not to provide halakhic decisions but rather to present the principles which underlie and guide those decisions which can only be made on an individual basis by competent rabbinic authorities. 

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