Life's closing moments — some basic observances and customs:

  • As death nears, one should recite the Shema and other verses affirming our belief and faith in G‑d and G‑d's oneness. All who are present at the time should recite the Shema along with the dying person. If the dying person is unconscious, those present should recite those verses for him or her. (Click here for the text of the Shema and "verses of unity")

  • In the closing moments of life, a person should repent with all his or her heart for all wrongdoing she or he may have committed in the course of her or his life. If there is anyone the person feels they have wronged, s/he should seek the forgiveness of the offended party; the Talmud tells us that G‑d can forgive us for trespasses against others only after they have forgiven us.

  • The Vidui--verbal acknowledgement of one's sins—should be recited. There are various texts for this verbal acknowledgement. A person may also recite a personal acknowledgment in his/her own language. (Click here for the text of Vidui)

  • One should recite the Shema and Vidui even if it is not certain that death is imminent, lest he or she lose consciousness or be otherwise prevented from doing so closer to the time of death. In the words of the Sages, "Many recite Vidui and live, while many do not recite and lose the opportunity to do so."

  • In this day and age of long and drawn-out dying, where patients are usually unconscious and deeply medicated at the time of their death, the opportunities to say the Shema and the Vidui at the time of death do not always present themselves. In such cases, those present should do so and give voice to the departing soul.

  • It is a matter of the greatest respect to watch over a person as he passes from this world on to the next. No person should be left to die alone; rather, every effort should be made that there be loved ones, or even a caring stranger, present. During the last minutes of life no one in the presence of the deceased may leave, excepting the physically ill or those whose emotional state makes remaining in the room impossible.