Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

The Jewish Blessing on Death

The Jewish Blessing on Death

What is “Baruch dayan emet”?

E-mail
Photo: Gabor Kupi
Photo: Gabor Kupi

Dear Rabbi,

I have attended my first Jewish funeral, and it was indeed a very profound and meaningful service.

While there are many things about the service I could inquire about, I am curious about one thing in particular. Everyone was saying to each other, Baruch dayan emet,” “Blessed is the True Judge.” I found that it was almost like a greeting of some sort.

Can you explain this blessing?

Answer:

For thousands of years, Jews have been evoking the blessing of “Blessed is the True Judge” in response to death and tragedy. The entire blessing, with G‑d’s name, is as follows: Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, the True Judge.

In Hebrew it is pronounced: bah-rooch a-tah a-do-noi e-lo-hei-noo me-lech ha-o-lahm da-yan1 ha-e-met.

While only one who personally underwent a tragedy makes the full blessing with G‑d’s name, on hearing of the death of another, many respond by saying, “Baruch dayan emet.”2 You may have also heard people responding to generally unpleasant news with the phrase, “This is also for the good.”

Blessings and the Opposite

What is the source for saying these statements? Let’s first start with a story that is related in the Talmud:

The great Sage Rabbi Akiva once arrived at a city. Upon arrival, he sought a place to lodge; however, no one provided him with one. He said, “All that G‑d does, He does for the good!” and he went to sleep in a field.

In the field he had with him a rooster, a donkey and a lamp.

A wind came and blew out the candle. A cat came and ate the rooster. A lion came and ate the donkey.

Rabbi Akiva said, “All that G‑d does, He does for the good!”

It turned out that an army came and captured the city.3

This story illustrates how even seemingly negative occurrences happen for a reason, even if that reason is not apparent, as it was in the end for Rabbi Akiva. Because of this truth, alluded to in this story, our sages said that we should always thank G‑d for the not-so-good happenings in our life, just as we thank G‑d for the good in our life.

In the words of the Mishnaic sages:

One should thank G‑d for the bad, just as he blesses G‑d for the good, as the verse says, “You shall love the L‑rd, your G‑d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all of your means.”4 [The Hebrew word for “means” (me’odecha) also translates as “measure.”]

[Why does the verse say, “with all of your means”?] Whatever measure G‑d calculates for you, if it is good or bad, you should thank Him. 5

The Talmud explains this passage as saying that the same way one blesses G‑d for the good with joy, so too one should, with a complete heart,6 a complete mind and willingly, bless G‑d for the not-good that befalls one.7

When Death Occurs

Death is the most unexplainable concept that we face. Why did someone die when they did? Why did G‑d choose one person to live longer than the other? Why did the person have to suffer before his or her death?

However, even when it comes to death we are taught to bless G‑d; we say, “Blessed is the True Judge,” acknowledging that this is beyond our understanding.

There is an infinite difference between us and G‑d, and there is no way for us to understand His mysterious ways. We cannot comprehend; however, in spite of the pain of bereavement, we acknowledge that, ultimately, the “True Judge” knows what He is doing.8

Immediate family members9 of those who passed on from this world would make the blessing of “Baruch dayan ha-emet” as they rip their clothing during the funeral.10

Please see The Judaism Website’s mini-site on the Jewish Way in Death and Mourning.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Others would say da-yahn. The text in Hebrew is: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲ-דֹנָי אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם דַּיָּן הָאֱמֶת‏.

2.

An Ashkenazi Jew might say emes.

3.

Talmud, Berachot 60b.

4.

Deuteronomy 6:5.

5.

Talmud, ibid. 54a.

6.

Ibid. 60b. See commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) ad loc.

7.

See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:2–3.

8.

Based on a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, dated 19 Kislev 5728 (published in Torat Menachem—Menachem Tziyon, vol. 2, p. 539).

9.

One would also say the full blessing upon hearing of the passing of one’s rabbi, a great sage, or a close friend (see Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Hilchot Birchot Hanehenin 12:8).

10.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 339:3.

Dovid Zaklikowski is the director of Lubavitch Archives, a freelance journalist and public speaker. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (8)
April 17, 2014
G-D, the true judge
Thank you for the explanations, especially in English. The prayer "for the dead," as it is called, has always been a mystery to me. The reason being, this prayer is about being thankful, and praising G-D, I now have a better understanding.

I have learned much from "Chabad.org," through the years. Orthodoxy, is not what I follow, yet I love the information.

I am Ashkenazi and thought emmes was Yiddish, and emmet is Hebrew pronunciation.

Many Jewish people have told me that Orthodox Jews, don't consider me a Jew, and wonder why I defend them, and find denigrating them abhorrent. The thought of any kind of antisemitism, from a Jewish person, is especially sad, hurtful, and must be erased.

I would like Chabad's response to this.
suzi
orlando, fl
January 19, 2013
Life after death
Sadly my brother took his own life, is at peace. He was always a very good person
Anonymous
London
September 8, 2011
Rabi Akiva's story
Forgive me Rabbi Z, but you didn't do the beautiful rooster story justice. You left a huge cliff hanger where non should be. I think you should re-post the article with the full story.
Tania
far rockaway, ny
September 7, 2011
G-D is in total control
I recently lost my Father, and I wish I had read this article earlier in life and know I will recite this prayer when I visit his grave.

Because now he awaits the true judgment from the True Judge, as we all will one day.
Roberto Flores
Conroe, TX
September 5, 2011
One does not say Keil Moleih Rachamim on any day on which Tachanun, the supplication prayers, are not said -- this includes the days from the eve of Yom Kippur through the end of the month of TIshrei. Rather, one should recite psalms (see Gesher HaChaim 29:5). For a list of days on which Tachanun is not said, see the Siddur on p. 592.
Anonymous
September 5, 2011
The proper comforting phrase for one who lost an animal is "May the Omnipresent One make full your loss (HaMakom Yemalei Chesroncha)" -- see Tractate Berachos 16b.
Anonymous
Baltimore
September 5, 2011
El Moyleh Rachamin
The Prayer said when visiting a grave, except on Festivals. Would two days after Yom Kippur be considered a Festival time?
Anonymous
Iowa City, Ia
September 3, 2011
Is this blessing
Just for people? When an animal dies, is it ok to say that?
Anonymous