The renewed and growing interest in ethical wills today speaks to the attraction they have to people who want to reflect on the deeper meaning of their own lives and share what they have learned with those they love. These very personal documents, with origins in the Bible, grew into a particularly Jewish custom.
Hebrew Ethical Wills can teach us much about the past and gives us food for thought for the present. First published in 1926, this expanded edition includes new material: Lawrence Fine’s excellent introduction, passages from the autobiography of Gluckl of Hameln (to give expression to a Jewish women’s voice), and a bibliography of state-of-the-art scholarship on the issues and themes of ethical wills.
The texts included, by Judah ibn Tibbon, Maimonides, the Baal Shem Tov, and the Gaon of Vilna, among others, with Hebrew facing pages, provide us with rich and intriguing evidence of premodern notions of parenthood and childhood. And they offer special insights into the faith and feelings of Jews across the centuries, as well as inspiration for those who want to write their own ethical wills today.