(Courtesy of TEAM) New York—The conversation has begun. On Shabbos Parshas Vayechi, December 30, 450 shuls in 220 communities nationwide joined the Traditional End-of life Awareness Movement (TEAM). A project of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK), under the leadership of Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, this initiative helped raise awareness throughout our community about the Torah’s perspective on end-of-life matters, reaching an estimated 100,000 people.
In shuls around the country, beginning the preceding week and throughout the Shabbos, rabbis utilized various media to generate the discussion, such as dedicated sermons, lectures, programs and shul material. Some of the topics that were addressed included the inherent sanctity and value of life, the importance of making proper medical decisions, preparing wills in accordance with halacha and choosing traditional Jewish burial practices.
The Torah perspective on end-of-life is not easy to talk about. As such, many of these overriding obligations and far-reaching issues are infrequently mentioned.
“Due to a lack of awareness about the inherent sanctity and priceless value of every moment of life,” says Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, “many people make end-of-life decisions that are contrary to Torah hashkafa. The goal of TEAM Shabbos is to open the discussion about ‘Respecting Life—Here and Hereafter’ in a unified national movement to facilitate the necessary awareness about these matters.”
The idea to dedicate Parshas Vayechi to the discussion of k’vura k’halacha began with the Vaad Harabonim of Queens during the 1980s. Through initiating the TEAM Shabbos program, NASCK was able to expand this mission into a thriving national movement that now includes more than 450 shuls.
“The positive effects TEAM Shabbos had on our congregation this past week were truly unbelievable,” explained Rabbi Yaakov Tesser, rav of Young Israel of Aberdeen. “There were many who became aware of halachos of afterlife matters they had never known prior. Thank you to Rabbi Zohn and the NASCK organization for your avodas hakodesh on behalf of the klal!”
In fact, a rabbi from Brooklyn noted, “TEAM Shabbos provided a very important venue for people to hear and talk about these sensitive topics in a neutral and responsible manner.”
Many Torah-observant people do not fully understand the modern-day practical applications of end-of-life concepts such as pikuach nefesh and mes mitzvah. These important concepts require us to make proper medical decisions in our own families and assist our less-observant friends, relatives, acquaintances and co-workers in choosing traditional Jewish burial practices.
“The TEAM Shabbos movement was a national success with overwhelming positive feedback. Many of the rabbanim who presented shiurim on end-of-life matters were surprised at the positive and accepting attitude that their communities responded with,” Rabbi Zohn explained. “The ‘it’s about time’ sentiment was an oft-repeated phrase this Shabbos.”
So, what’s the next step for NASCK and TEAM Shabbos?
“We will continue to keep the discussion open and to generate awareness surrounding the importance of the inherent sanctity and value of life, preparing halachic wills, promoting k’vura k’halacha and traditional burial choices. We look forward to expanding the TEAM next Parshas Vayechi,” says Rabbi Zohn. “We encourage communities to join NASCK’s many ongoing programs dedicated to support, inform, educate and inspire all those involved with and all those seeking information about traditional Jewish burial, including programs promoting halachic living wills and EMES (Emergency Medical Education and Sign-Up) cards.”
To download the forms to create a halachic living will, visit NASCK.org/join.
To order EMES cards today and ensure your halachic living will info is with you in case of an emergency, contact NASCK at 718.847.6280.
Help open the discussion on cremation. For ideas about what to say to acquaintances considering cremation, call us at 718-847-6280 or visit NASCK.org/Cremation-2.
For more information about the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK) and TEAM Shabbos, please call