If I knew someone was languishing in the hospital, suffering constantly and intensely, and about to die, while I can't physically do anything to hasten the death, can I add in my davening a request that, as an expression of God's mercy, the person die sooner rather than later? I don't know that the die has been cast and the death is necessarily inevitable because there could always be a miraculous recovery, so I would continue to hope and say "rofeh cholim", but can I word something to the effect that "if that isn't going to happen, better the person should pass quickly and soon instead of lingering and suffering"?

I am not asking about praying for the death of a specific wicked person (which brings this to mind) but at acknowledging that God meimit umechayeh (and that according to Kohelet 3:2, there is a time to die -- we can't all live forever), so if the person is constantly suffering, is there anything wrong for asking for the end to come?

I know that part of this hinges on the purpose and method of prayer as it relates to "Does prayer change God's mind" but if prayer can have any sort of effect, is it permissible to pray for such a course to come to pass?

  • cf judaism.stackexchange.com/q/28982
    – msh210
    Sep 26, 2016 at 15:23
  • Sounds like it is problematic. If G-d can perfrom miracles, and we, inherently believe that G-d is the ultimate "doctor" (See parshat Beshalach, among a few other places), then why wouldn't we rather pray for G-d to heal the person? Who are we to decide when a person's life should end, as difficult as it may be for the person and their family?
    – DanF
    Sep 26, 2016 at 17:49
  • Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/78706
    – msh210
    Jan 3, 2017 at 5:00

1 Answer 1


Bava Metzia 84a:

Resh Lakish died, and R. Johanan was plunged into deep grief. Said the Rabbis, 'Who shall go to ease his mind? Let R. Eleazar b. Pedath go, whose disquisitions are very subtle.' So he went and sat before him; and on every dictum uttered by R. Johanan he observed: 'There is a Baraitha which Supports you.' 'Are you as the son of Lakisha?' he complained: 'when I stated a law, the son of Lakisha used to raise twenty-four objections, to which I gave twenty-four answers, which consequently led to a fuller comprehension of the law; whilst you say, "A Baraitha has been taught which supports you:" do I not know myself that my dicta are right?' Thus he went on rending his garments and weeping, 'Where are you, O son of Lakisha, where are you, O son of Lakisha;' and he cried thus until his mind was turned. Thereupon the Rabbis prayed for him, and he died.

then again, suffering atones for sins, so a person could greatly lose out by dying early thus it is a mercy that he suffers more and receives atonement in this world which is much easier than in the next. Presumably this was not the case for R.Yochanan who was a very righteous person.

  • 1
    I was told that there is a gemara that deals with my question but I would hope it would be in more depth than the final line in this -- I would have to learn this inside but the language of "prayed for him and he died" is a bit vague.
    – rosends
    Sep 26, 2016 at 11:38
  • @Danno Resh Lakish was already dead. The one who was suffering here was Rabbi Yochanan who was mourning over the loss of Resh Lakish. When Rabbi Yochanan's mind was settled, the Rabbis prayed for Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Yochanan died. This story is underlining the purpose of suffering and how the Rabbis used Rabbi Yochanan's response as a gauge for when to pray for his release from the suffering. His mind having settled indicated that whatever benefit there may have been to his suffering had been accomplished. Sep 26, 2016 at 12:45
  • @YaacovDeane I understand that. But without learning it inside, I can't draw any conclusions from the vague English wording.
    – rosends
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:54
  • @Danno what is ambiguous about their praying that he die?
    – ray
    Sep 26, 2016 at 16:16
  • @Ray the way the translation has it is "pray FOR him AND he died" the content of the prayer (or even the intention) is not indicated in the English. I'd have to go back to the source and study it to see if it gives me any insight. Also, I would have to see the limits to "suffering" that would include this case of mental anguish but might exclude anything else.
    – rosends
    Sep 26, 2016 at 16:19

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