Moshe Ben-Chaim
Readers Question: Irene M. is 67 years old and has been diagnosed with the first stages of Alzheimer's Disease. She is a vigorous, intelligent woman who has made her living for many years as a newspaper columnist and book reviewer. She is married and has three grown daughters. Irene has already begun to notice the first traces of the impact her disease will inevitably have on her life. She finds herself unable to remember simple things or follow the plots of television shows or movies. She can feel herself losing vocabulary words and has lately begun to lose her bearings even in her own neighborhood; twice already she has had to ask a stranger to phone her husband to pick her up although it later turned out she was just around the corner from her home.
Irene's whole sense of herself has been tied up with physical and mental pursuits. She and her husband are avid golfers and she has read at least two or three books a week for decades. Facing the slow deterioration of her mind and her eventual, and apparently inevitable, slide into total disability, she has decided to end her life. She has considered the matter carefully and wishes to end her life now, before there is any further degeneration of her intellectual or physical health. She feels grateful for a wonderful life, but she wants it to end while she can still, as she puts it, die with dignity.
She has made plans to travel to Michigan to allow Dr. Kevorkian to assist her to commit suicide, but she is having second thoughts. She has read in a book of Jewish thought that it is considered the ultimate act of ingratitude towards God to end one's life as though it were one's own possession and not a gift from God. Irene does feel that her life should be her own to end but she feels uncertain and she is not prepared to proceed until she feels completely sure that she has chosen the right path. She turns to you, her rabbi, for advice. She isn't interested in hearing a list of Talmudic references or stories she wants to know what you think she should do based on your understanding of her wishes and your grounding in Jewish law and ethics.
Mesora: Irene's maintains three false premises: 1) The physical, Earthly existence is existence - since all is not well here, she incorrectly feels there are no other post mortem considerations to ponder, 2) She feels she has rights over her own life, and, 3) She also feels there are no other forces at play except for the physical, so she assumes Divine intervention to save her is a fallacy. Recently a testicular cancer patient worked with a pharmaceutical firm to develop a cure,....which worked. Whether God assisted this determined cyclist is unknown, but he certainly could have. Irene feels this is not so, even with proof from the Torah that God intervened countless times on man's behalf.
Without God being an essential part of man's equations, he is doomed to err. God gave life, and man has no right to take it, not another's, and not his own.
Man does not cease to exist after physical death. His perfections during life, and his attachment to wisdom survive death, as the metaphysical soul does not die in the face of a physical death. At least the fact that major philosophers throughout the centuries attest to this should be food for thought.

Philosophy | Tnach | New Postings | JewishTimes | Audio Archives | Suggested Reading | Live Classes | Search | Letters | Q&A's | Community Action | Volunteer | Links | Education | Chat | Banners | Classifieds | Advertise | Donate | Donors | About Us | Press | Contacts | Home


Mesora website designed by
© 2003 Mesora of New York, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Articles may be reprinted without permission.