Text Size:

What is the Hineni Learning Tool?

Hineni is a unique, interactive, web-based tool that gives users a simple, ergonomic, and fast way to get information about Jewish death practices. The word, Hineni, is the transliteration of a Hebrew phrase used in the Torah, meaning "Here I am." It was chosen to indicate this tool is here to give succinct, direct answers to everyone quickly and easily. Hineni is intended to be used by various audiences, starting with (1) with those who directly serve families (funeral directors, cemetery workers, hospice personnel, Jewish clergy, chaplains, death doulas, and hospital personnel, who want to learn more to be better able to serve Jewish families and who want to assist families in making end-of-life decisions), and (2) families facing death of a loved one who wish to learn more about our traditions. We also envision community leaders using this tool as they prepare drashot for services, lectures, or classes, along with Chevrah Kadisha workers who want to expand their abilities to share these practices with their community. Additional possible users could include bnei mitzvot classes and their teachers, chevrah leaders, chevrah volunteers, local education champions,  Jewish community lay leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish clergy, JADE helpline responders, and synagogue caring committee members. Acknowledgements The Hineni tool was developed by the JADE staff as a part of ongoing community educational efforts to find the best ways to disseminate and share knowledge about Jewish end-of-life practices, rites, customs, and traditions. An acknowledgement of the contribution of our staff is shown below.
Rick Light
Rick Light
Isabel Knight
HollyBlue Hawkins, Rick Light
Rick Light, David Zinner
Isabel Knight, Susan Kramer

Preplanning for Death

A Deeper Understanding


There are four types of death planning documents - Physical wills, Ethical wills, Health Care Directives, and Funeral/Burial Wishes. Preplanning for death involves all of these, and each is discussed below.


Preplanning helps us confront death and make appropriate arrangements. This is comforting to the deceased who is leaving this world with their affairs in order. It also brings great comfort to the bereaved because they can understand the wishes of our loved ones. Ideally, this process includes family discussions as well as the preparation of relevant documents, even though these conversations can sometimes be difficult.

Typically, most people only do preplanning in the form of a will that deals with money, property inheritance, insurance, etc. A lawyer is usually involved in helping to help craft such a legal document.  But preplanning for death can include much more than a legal will.

Jewish death planning can also include making known our health-care related wishes, such as who we want as our health-care agents, health-care proxies and powers of attorney to make medical decisions for us. Other documents include living wills,  and advanced directives (sometimes called a durable power of attorney ), and other arrangements that we express when we are still competent to do so. Preplanning can include a physicians' health-care order, sometimes called a POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).

An ethical will is a document that shares our values and world-view. This can take the form of a letter, a book, a video, or personal notes we leave behind. It includes all the ways that we share what is important to us and what we value.

Funeral and burial wishes may be documented with the assistance of clergy or family; usually someone knowledgeable about Jewish death and mourning practices. This document usually indicates if traditional practices such as taharah, shmirah, and burial are desired.  It is here that one can designate the desired disposition for one's body, normally burial, but possibly could include donation to science or other non-traditional disposition methodology.


Resources to Learn More


When our loved ones, our clergy, and our doctors understand our values and what we want for ourselves near end-of-life, they and we are better equipped to make decisions that resonate with our desires.

Click on icons below to learn about this topic from different perspectives.





 Death Preplanning from the Practical / Physical Perspective

Committing our plans to writing, documents concrete plans for the inevitable future. Getting family members involved in this planning and making arrangements, along with clergy, attorneys, and physicians is an important aspect of establishing an effective plan. Writing this information also facilitates sharing it to the parties that need to be involved.

 Death Preplanning from the Intellectual / Textual Perspective

In the Torah we read:  Then he (Jacob) instructed them (his sons), saying to them, “I am about to be gathered to my kin. Bury me with my ancestors in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite." (Genesis 49:29).  This is one of the places we see the need for communication about death in our tradition. Our forefather, Jacob, gave instructions to his children as to what should happen after his death. Communicating to our family how to approach our death is considered an important aspect of one’s family responsibility.  

 Death Preplanning from the Emotional / Feelings Perspective

Preplanning for death helps us face death directly.  It also helps reduce the decision making required of the mourners, which can be comforting as they face a loved one's death.  There may be times when the deceased's wishes are spiritually or emotionally problematic for those who will be responsible for carrying out those wishes – for example, in terms of funeral arrangements and disposition of the body.  Discussing these things in advance can help both parties understand one another’s perspectives.

 Death Preplanning from the Spiritual / Soul Perspective

Thinking carefully about our own death and how we want to communicate our wishes, reflects a spiritual engagement in the death process, and shows respect for our own soul and the holiness of our family members.  It can also compel us towards a greater appreciation of the gift of life.

Return to Overview

Deeper Understanding

Return to Topic