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Friday, 11 April 2014

How to Write your own Eulogy


Beitzah 12

Imagine you could design your own eulogy.  What would you write? 

Sometimes you walk out of a funeral and are so inspired by the story of the deceased that you decide to turn your life around.   Unfortunately, in no time at all, that exhilaration wears off. 

But what if you could capture the moment and keep it with you throughout your life?  Wouldn’t your life be remarkably different?  Writing your own future eulogy by turning your life around today is the premise of a soon to be released bestseller by Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Stamford.

What are the key elements to achieving the eulogic-perfect life?

The Mishnah states: Beis Shamai says ‘One may not carry a child, nor a lulav, nor a Torah Scroll outside [on Yom Tov].’  And Beis Hillel permits it. 

Generally, anything that is proscribed on Shabbos is similarly forbidden on Yom Tov.  Certain food-prep activities that one could not do before the festival, however, are allowed on Yom Tov, such as cooking and carrying.  For example, if you run out of salt or sugar, you can go next door to borrow some from your neighbour.  On Shabbos, we do not carry anything through the public domain, but on Yom Tov, we may. 

Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel’s debate centres on the question of whether the permission to carry food provides a blanket pass for all carrying.  Once we’re allowed to carry food in the public domain, then perhaps we should be permitted to carry anything outside?  In other words, is all carrying permitted on Yom Tov or just carrying food? 

It’s important to note that even according to Beis Hillel, with whom the Halacha accords, one may only carry items that one needs on the festival.  So, for example, I can carry my tallis to shul in the morning, because I need it for prayers.  But I may not carry it home afterwards, because I then have no use for it, unless I put it on again later. 

Many years ago, I learned from Rabbi Elazar Muskin that there are three areas of a deceased’s life that should be addressed in a good eulogy: family, G-d and community.  When Beis Shamai wants to give examples of carrying on Yom Tov that is necessary but not food-related, they demonstrate the three areas of life that are important. 

Beis Shamai is thinking about the poor mother who is stuck at home for two days of Yom Tov with her baby.  They are thinking about the individual who has forgotten to take his lulav to the synagogue before Yom Tov and now won’t be able to wave it during the prayers and serve G-d properly.  And they are thinking about the Sefer Torah that is stuck at the scribe’s home and can’t be transported to the synagogue for the community to read from. 

Throughout our lives, we must constantly ask ourselves how we are faring in these three areas.   At the end of your life, when you are being eulogized, they might mention that you were successful in your career, they might mention that you were a good cook, they might even mention that you were an avid golfer.  But those anecdotes are the eulogy-fillers that nobody really cares about and are inserted into eulogies that don’t contain enough real important information.

What’s important eulogy information?  How you fared in your commitment to family, G-d, and community.  Was he a good husband?  Did she care about her Judaism?  Was he active in the synagogue?  These are the important questions that you need to think about every day of your life.  Nobody’s eulogy is written in an hour, you spend a lifetime writing your own eulogy.

In terms of family, every day you need to ask yourself, ‘Am I the best spouse I could be? Am I the best parent I could be?  Am I taking care of my parents the way I should?  Am I working to keep the family together?  Am I finding ways to bring family members together who haven’t spoken to one another in ten years?’

In terms of G-d, every day you need to ask yourself, ‘How committed am I to mitzvos?  Am I ethical in my business dealings?  Do I pray every day?  Do I learn Torah every day?  Do I give the right amount to charity?’

In terms of community, every day you need to ask yourself, ‘Am I a net giver to community or am I a net taker from the community?  Am I one of the people that listen patiently to the kvetchers of the shul, or am one of the people that kvetch to the tireless volunteers?  Do I volunteer my time to make my community and society a better place to live for everybody?’

If you take time every single day to contemplate these three vital elements, I guarantee that your life will be immeasurably enhanced and more enriching than you could ever imagine.  Every day will be filled with incredible purpose, meaning and true joy. 

And when the time comes, they will think about your life and compose the most inspiring eulogy that any funeral parlor has ever heard.  After all, it was really you that contributed all the ingredients to the eulogy that will write itself.


Today’s Life Yomi is dedicated in honour of the birthday of Ben Friedman of Sydney, Australia by his wife, Eve; children: Batya & Daniel, Yosefa & Shimon, Kate & Michoel, Dina & Ryan; and grandchildren: Millie, Joey, Jamie-Anna, Ella Bracha, Aliya, Shaya Dovid, Eli and Shaina.  In his 60s, having retired from full-time work, Ben decided to commit to learning Daf Yomi every day for the first time in his life.  So far, he has not missed a day, yasher koach!  Happy birthday, biz 120 in good health – you have another six cycles of Daf Yomi ahead of you!