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As a chaplain I sing Christian hymns for those who are dying and for the family after death, while still present with the one who died. There is also a final blessing. It brings a deep peace for the person before they die and for the family after death. They join in the hymns and prayer.

Are there songs that will bring strength and peace for Jewish men and women that will do this? Can I as a gentile sing these songs and am I authorized to pronounce a final blessing? In the Catholic church, only the Priests are authorized for the sacraments. Please help me honor these precious souls and bring them peace and strength.

  • What do you mean by “final blessing”? When you refer to peace, do you mean peace going into death, or after? – DonielF Mar 6 at 15:43
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    For Protestant Christians, Numbers 6: 22- 26 is common. "May the Lord bless you and keep you..." For Catholics, a priest pronounces "Late Rites" or the "Anointing of the sick." I am with people in the last days of their life and want to know what is proper. Sometimes I am with them as they die. Many times I am called after the death to be with the family while the deceased is still present in the room. My goal is to provide the correct care for people of the Jewish faith without unknowingly imposing my Christian faith into the moment. Thank you. – Chaplain Mark Mar 6 at 16:22
  • Regarding peace: Peace and strength for the person who is dying. I have been with hundreds of people as they approach death. Some are deeply afraid of the actual process of death and many are fearful of what happens after death. I have to be very careful not to impose my Christian faith into this process when the patient is Jewish. Peace for the family before and after death. Grieving family is one of the things I see the most immediately after the death. It is common for me to be with the family while the deceased is still present in the room. – Chaplain Mark Mar 6 at 16:38
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. We hope you find the answers you seek. – LN6595 Mar 7 at 2:50
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You asked elsewhere regarding the moments before death so I understand this question to apply right after death. The traditional Jewish practices right after death have been described here by Rabbi Maurice Lamm. Relevant to your question on blessings and songs, the traditional approach is

  • not to touch the corpse until one is truly sure of the death
  • to close eyes and the mouth of the deceased and to draw a sheet over his face
  • to recite Psalms 23 and 91 (here in transliteration)
  • not to leave the deceased alone (normally the Jewish burial society, Hevra Kadisha will provide guardians who will typically recite further Psalms)

Songs and blessings are not part of traditional Jewish mourning practices. R Lamm actually mentions explicitly that "There should be no singing or playing of music."

Again thank you for your care and solicitude in these difficult moments.

  • It's been a while since I read Lamm's book. Is a Gentile allowed to be a shomer? As an extension, may a Gentile perform any aspect that the chevra Kadisha does such as washing the body, etc. – DanF Mar 6 at 17:01
  • I do not believe so. The SA (YD 344:12) takes as a given "lamenters" are Jews. Also this Hevra Kadisha handbook (under membership) mentions only Jews. But I did not suggest the chaplain should take on these roles.... – mbloch Mar 6 at 17:48
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    ... Not leaving the deceased alone is a different case, SA YD 339:4 speaks of not leaving the dying person alone, i.e., it pains the soul to leave alone. If the choice is between a non-Jew and alone, I think it means that a non-Jew is preferable. Of course, all further proceedings should be in the hands of the hevra kadisha as much as feasible. Nearly worth a question on its own, other sources might surface – mbloch Mar 6 at 17:48
  • This probably depends on the individual, but if somebody needs a transliteration, Psalms 23 and 91 might be more meaningful to them in English. – Heshy Mar 6 at 21:11
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    Thank you so much for this help. Everyone here has been so wonderful! May you be richly blessed! – Chaplain Mark Mar 7 at 2:49

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