In Jewish tradition, death is not viewed as the end of life, but as a transition from a time of effort to a time of reward. The soul continues to live on. The days of our life are like stepping stones that lead the soul from this world to the next, where the soul enjoys the spiritual accomplishments of its mortal existence.

Still, the illness and passing of a loved one is a painful experience. For this reason, Jewish law mandates both caring for the ill and deceased with respect and dignity, and comforting the mourner during his or her time of need. In this way, Jewish law provides the means to console both the soul and the mourner.

The present Companion provides an overview of these Jewish laws and traditions. It is designed so that one may know how to respond to issues as they occur. Nonetheless, one is encouraged to consult a rabbi who specializes in these laws to address one's particular situation.

May we merit the day when illness and death will be gone forever!

Rabbi Zalman Goldstein



A special thanks to Rabbi Sholom Ber Chaikin, for giving selflessly of his valuable time to read, amend, and refine the material presented here, and for ensuring its halachic accuracy.

To Rabbi Levi Garelik of the A.C.C. Chevra Kaddisha, for reviewing the material presented here and offering many suggestions, insights, and clarifications.

To Rabbis Nissen Mangel and Yosef B. Friedman, for the English translations of various Psalms and prayers.

To my wife, for her constant support and ready proof- reading. To Leibel Estrin, Yehudis Cohen, and Rabbi Shmuel Rabin for additional proofing and editing.

To countless others who have assisted along the way, including Rabbis Aaron Goldstein, Yehuda Weg, Yoram Ulman, and all others who have offered their ideas and encouragement.

To everyone else not mentioned above who helped make this book possible. Thank you all!