I often see the world through the lens of estate planning. Having worked in the field of estates and trusts for nearly forty years, I connect with Torah stories like the end of Jacob’s life. In the final chapters of Genesis, Jacob delivers final messages to his family that serve as his legal and spiritual will. He sets an example for us all. But first, let’s get back to me.

I am a proud long-time member of the AARP. And now I get discounts at museums, movies, and on Amtrak. I have a “mature” perspective on living. In forty years of lawyering, I primarily assisted clients with their estate planning. I have a lawyer’s perspective on dying. With my clients, we planned for the difficulties of aging: possible disability, end-of-life medical care, and funeral arrangements. I served my clients efficiently and stoically. And then I went to “rabbi school.”

From a rabbi’s perspective, I found that some clients welcome the connection between their legal needs and spiritual lives. These people appreciated having a “man of the cloth” guide them through the estate planning process. My interactions with these people made me a better counselor. As a spiritual advisor, my role is to make space for the soulful exploration of a person’s desires. This requires a contraction of one’s own self, what the Jewish mystics call “tzimtzum.”

So, let’s get back to Torah. Jacob flips the estate planning monologue by focusing on his descendants rather than on his bequests. He blesses them with his vision, discernment, and guidance. Jacob offers a unique message for each of his twelve sons and two of his grandsons.

Reflecting on Jacob, here’s my suggestion for 2023. Have personal conversations about your estate. Make it personal. Do you have a message to share with your family? Otherwise, your final communication to your family and friends will be legal documents focused on probate and taxes. Is that how you want to say goodbye?

You might not understand estate planning as a spiritual exercise. However, your choices – about who inherits your property, who you trust with your assets, or your end-of-life planning – all impart a moral meaning and have a philosophical association. Jacob set out the methodology for spiritual estate planning. Make a New Year’s resolution to engage with people you love in profoundly meaningful ways.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame