Many of my friends who are in their 70s are making arrangements for their Jewish burials, so that the burden won’t fall on their children. Is this appropriate? Or are we to simply leave our final requests in writing for our family when we are no longer in this world?


You know the story of the charming husband who bought his wife a burial plot for her birthday? The next year he didn’t buy her anything. When she asked why, he responded, “I bought you a gift last year, and you didn’t use it.”

It’s a horrible joke. But even bad jokes have some truth to them. The sages of the Midrash advise us to purchase a burial plot even while we are still alive and well.1 And it is commonly said that doing so will actually bless one with a long life. So this guy’s wife should be blessed with good health for many years to come.

Although some write that this blessing does not appear to be written in any classical Jewish source,2 it is possible to explain it psychologically. The fear of dying, like the fear of anything, saps our energy. Buying a burial plot may help normalize death, which will prevent us from becoming preoccupied with it.

Another suggested explanation: It is ordained in heaven how much income each person makes in a year. This includes the burial society—a certain amount of money will come to them each year. Unfortunately, they make a living from people dying. So there needs to be a certain number of funerals each year. But if you pay your funeral costs in advance, then they get the money that is coming to them, and you can live on.

Death is an unpleasant topic, but we all have to face it. Our emphasis should always be on life, not its opposite. But on occasion, a gentle reminder of our mortality can motivate us to use our time wisely. May we all live for many years, and may those years be filled with meaningful days.