Kenneth Cohen

Preparing for Death

The Talmud in Masechet Baba Metzia, says that Yakov Avinu was the first person to get sick, before passing away. Until that time, people died without much warning.
The reason for such sickness was to be able to give the family the ability to pray and perhaps change the decree. The situation was a kind of wake up call to be able to get things in order, before the inevitable.

Rav Avigdor Miller once made a similar observation about the aging process. He said that the reason why people age, was to prepare their families that their loved ones were not going to be around so long. It was a way to lighten the sadness, so that there was more preparedness for that dreaded day.

We are living through a very painful period in our history. In addition to the shock and sadness of the events of October the seventh, we are also dealing with the loss of our young, brave soldiers. This is particularly painful, as they are taken from us in their prime of life. There is no real preparation for such tragedies.

The consolation for us is the knowledge that we believe in Olam Haba, the World to Come. And we believe that every life lost is welcomed in Heaven as the greatest hero. They are already beginning to experience an eternal life on incredible bliss.

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu once spoke at the Shiva of Adir Zik, a very holy Jew, who was also my eighth grade teacher in Los Angeles. He said that if we knew where Adir was, shortly after his passing, nobody would be mourning.

Sickness and death is very difficult to with. It is a little easier when we are a prepared. But even in the worst of times, our faith carries us through.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at