It struck me recently that the Torah's last four parshahs (weekly readings) all take place on one day; the last day of Moses' life. In the rest of the Torah, hundreds of years can pass in just one parshah, yet these last four extend through one day. Why is it so significant and what can one learn from this, especially as these coincide with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

I can't help but wonder what I would do if I knew it was the last day of my life. This is a great subject for an advanced level philosophy course, but rather than thinking about it theoretically, I look at it personally. Though it has taken some time, I have had some personal experiences that help me understand and appreciate the conclusion of the Torah and the end of Moses' life.

What did Moses do on the last day of his life? He walked through the camp of all the Jewish people to say goodbye and comfort them in advance of his death. He reiterated the laws and values that they were to follow so as to be able to continue on a path of righteousness. He entrusted Joshua to take over his leadership so the people would not feel lost. He was given the privilege of seeing the entire Land of Israel, about which there are some lovely interpretations. In short, he did what he could to see that the Jewish people would not be rudderless in his absence and have both a leader and laws to guide them in the future.

Eleven years ago, I sat through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, beating my chest to repent and seek forgiveness for any sins I had done. "Who shall live and who shall die, who by fire and who by water, who by starvation and who by thirst, etc." resonated with me personally. My father was dying. I was angry.

My father had just come home from the hospital for the last time, the second or third surgery in less than a year, to try to treat, or just arrest, the effects of a particularly painful and deadly form of cancer. Under the care of hospice, my father had accepted that his end was near.

Not only did I pray that somehow there would be a full recovery, in spite of everything his doctors predicted, but I sat in judgment before God asking myself, asking Him, what had I done to deserve this. How could it be that my father was dying before my eyes, only months before his 60th birthday? What did I do that was so bad in God's eyes that I deserved this punishment?

More than 4,000 days later, not a day goes by that I don't miss my father. Not a day goes by that I don't wish that he were alive to see all my children, half of whom he never met, growing up in a way that would make him proud. Not a day goes by that I don't wish that they had their grandfather whose unconditional love of his grandchildren began from the day our oldest daughter, his first grandchild, was born.

The loss of my father eleven years ago is compounded by the death of my mother, just over a year ago. My mother's life and values were similar to that of my father in terms of their love for their children, daughters-in-law who became as their own, and grandchildren. Her perspective on life resonates with me, especially at this season, and is one for which I am grateful.

Though the grief of their death will always be with me, I am able to find comfort now in a greater understanding of the cycle of life, one that I lived personally and one that is depicted before us all in the Torah. My father lived his last days providing an example for the rest of my life, and a valuable lesson to impart in my children. He never expected that he would die so young, but when death came, he was ready. My mother lived most of her adult life with a disease whose daily effects she struggled to overcome, albeit with no cure. Her fight for life, and her will to live, was an example to us all and helped her live with a disease for decades that might have taken someone with less character much earlier.

My father set his affairs in order and, as much as my mother cared for him in his last months, he saw to it that his death would not be any harder on her than needed. He made sure all their banking and other records were in order so that she'd not have to after he was gone. His death would be hard enough on her, why compound it by adding to it the bureaucracy he could still deal with.

He made time to share a private word of his love and impart a blessing for our future without him. As much as I sat in denial and could not imagine what he already knew would be his fate, he had the wisdom and love to leave me something very personal to hold on to, even after he was gone.

Throughout his illness, he continued to plan a family vacation for us all. He thought that by planning it he might give us all one last vacation together filled with fun and fond memories. And when he knew that he'd not make it to that vacation, he beseeched me to go, even though the Caribbean Island to which we would travel had no Jewish community nor minyan in which he knew I'd need to say kaddish for him.

My mother lived her life setting goals so that she would not allow her disease to overcome her. She published these goals and actually lived to fulfill them. One meaningful milestone after another. All were related to her children and grandchildren. On her last day before a sudden hospitalization which would be the beginning of the end, she spent most of a day visiting and shopping with my wife and her oldest and youngest grandchild, metaphorically, as if she were with all her grandchildren. Until the last day that she was able, she lived life to the fullest.

But my mother still spoke to us, even after she was no longer conscious. Her living will, legally executed and very clear in all her wishes, would guide us in her final days. In it she set out the directive of how we should authorize her medical care. She instructed that her doctors enter her living will as part of her medical records, to be followed according to her wishes, even after she was no longer able to make decisions herself.

As hard as it was to instruct her doctors not to save her life in any heroic means, there was a comfort in knowing that we were fulfilling her wishes and enabling her to die in dignity rather than prolong her being alive in a way she would never want to live.

I look at my parents' example, in the context of the Torah portions which we are reading, and marvel how their actions in caring for their survivors and providing guidance so replicate Moses' actions too.

In the course of our lives, we all will be coping with similar feelings of pain and loss. A parent or loved one is ill and for whom there is no further medical treatment. A recent loss still harbors pain and tears that are sometimes uncontrollable.

It is not for us to understand God's judgment as much as we strive to follow His laws. But the end of the Torah, which corresponds to the end of Moses' life, does give a model to live and even die by. Even if understanding this comes long after the fact, there can be a sense of comfort in knowing that even for our greatest teacher, death was a reality. The death of a loved one is among the saddest things a person can experience, but having a model in Moses, and for me personally in my parents, there is nevertheless a lesson I can take with me as I stand before God in judgment again this year, and for the rest of my life.

May it be a year of health, happiness and peace for all Israel, and understanding and comfort even in times of sorrow.

Editor's note: The preciousness of every moment of life is a cardinal principle in Judaism, and a qualified rabbi should be consulted about the complex and often sensitive issues pertaining to living wills and end-of-life decisions. For more on the subject see here and here.