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The Death of a Friend

The Death of a Friend



An old friend of the family just passed away as a result of a tragic accident. What is the Jewish way to help make sense of all of this?


As the years pass, we witness death many times, but the passing of a close friend is different than any other passing. In a way, a part of us dies as well. They say that two friends carry a small piece of one another wherever they go. And so, when this friend departs, we too experience death vicariously.

How do you respond to a part of you dying? You have a choice: You can resign to the inevitable with a broken spirit and eat away the rest of your years despondently awaiting full surrender. Or you can defy that taste of death by cherishing life even more.

We Jews often quote the words of Solomon the Wise, "V'ha-chai yiten el libo"--meaning, "And he who lives should take it to heart" (Ecclesiastes 7:2). In simple words, our response to death is to take life to a whole new level. Before witnessing death, we believe we will live forever—so we think nothing of squandering our time. Now we understand that our days are counted, that not a moment will repeat itself.

In the words of one of our wise sages,1 "People fret about wasting their money, but no one frets about wasting their days. The money they saved cannot help them but their wasted days are forever lost."

Today is a great day to start living.

P.S. You might want to look also at our Death and Mourning section for more on the topic.


Attributed to the poet Solomon ibn Gabirol (1021-1058.)

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA February 11, 2010

Rabbi Freeman, thank you so much. I had a dear friend who died of cancer. There was such a huge ache in my heart. I decided eventually to stop grieving and begin a brand new life where I give myself permission to laugh, have fun, GO places I have never been, and do good things for myself such as have a bariatric surgery and begin a new, active lifestyle of exercise and daily walks. When I see the world around me now, it is new. Now, I am facing another dear friend who is in the process of dying. It really hurts. But, I have go grasp hold of each moment of life that G-d has given me on this earth and see it as being miraculous. I love my friend dearly, but I realize that the only way to prevent this pain is to be a hermit and never care about another person. I believe that it does matter that I can bring joy and happiness to another person and that by being available to her when I am able, it is a Mitzvah for G-d. No? I know I need to be brave about it. It is difficult, though. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA February 11, 2010

Book from Rabbi Lamm about death I was in a training class to become a parachaplain and one of the books that we bought is The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, by Rabbi Norman Lamm. I hoe this helps Reply

Sam Castro Valley, CA February 11, 2010

The Death Of a Freind A few minutes ago i was speaking with my granddaughter regarding chores i had planned for today and asked if she wanted to come along.
I said to her I am visiting Rabbi lobowskoski in Oakland then will go to San Francisco to pick up a suit of clothing I bought. I thought about eating lunch frugally in some nice place. However, after reading your article we are going to a steak house and having a fillet Mignon. Reply

Henry Chanoch Brown Miami Beach, FL February 11, 2010

the death of a friend Pray for the recovery of the lost spark. A trauma causes a potential spark to be dislodged. The recovery of this lost spark is important to our progress in this world and the next. How do we "recover"? perhaps ASKING for help to recover the sparks Meditation.
Rv. Freeman, you are wonderful, thought provoking and unifying simultaneously. Thanks, Reply

bonbon AUBURN , CA. January 17, 2010

MY FRIEND My friend , whom i love dearly is passing , in this process of leaving , part of me wants to go with her. as the pain of loseing her is unbearable. .... Reply

Neil Greenberg Elkins Park, PA, USA July 16, 2008

Death of a friend Thank you for that wonderful wisdom. I first encountered the "Jewish" attitude about death at my zayde's funeral. He attended a small shul where the average age was probably 70. When the rabbi gave the eulogy (in Yiddish!) I understood very little...except that he was telling jokes, because a lot of the old guys were laughing. It was then that I realized a funeral is not just for mourning our loss, but for celebrating the blessing of what we had while the deceased was with us Reply

Edith Brown Silver Spring, MD July 14, 2008

My Best Friend Many times I have searched for someone to replace my best friend, but no one could. She loved me unconditionally and taught me to do the same. She also taught me many valuable lessons of life.

While I agree life is for the living and each moment is precious - I must say a day never goes by that my heart does not ache for my best friend. You see she is irreplaceable as she was my beloved Mother, may she rest in peace.

Now people tell me because my parents are both deceased G-d is my Mother and Father. So what do you say? Reply

Pat Baxley Post, Texas June 3, 2007

Death of my sister Thank you, Rabbi Freeman
My younger sister died about a month ago and it has been a real roller coaster of emotions for my family and me. I had been feeling this big empty place in my heart, like part of me is missing.
Your advice to live life to the fullest is very good. It would be an honor to her memory for us to do this.
Her Hebrew name was Chaya -- "life". That fits perfectly.
With Regards, Reply

Linda Haniford NY, NY June 1, 2007

Thanks for your commentary. It's a nice way to think about what's happening to us when close friends are not with us anymore. And you're right about not shutting down because friends are dying all of the time. I guess another thing to do when friends and family die is to thank G-d that they were able to be a part of our lives. Could go on forever... Reply

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