Ibrahim Maher, the head nurse at the COVID unit in Ha’emek Medical Center in Afula, was treating Shlomo Glaster, an Orthodox Jew who was a member of the Chabad sect of Chasidut from northern Israel, when it became clear that the patient was about to pass away on Thursday morning. Maher had treated Galster for one month since he had been admitted while suffering from COVID-19. Maher, a resident of Daburiya near Mount Tavor, had taken a course about Judaism when studying for his Master’s Degree and knew that it is important for Jews to recite the ‘Shema Yisrael’ before dying. He had been informed that due to the snow, Glaster’s family would not arrive in time to attend their father on his deathbed, Maher recited the prayer for the dying Jewish man. He was unsure of the precise wording and used a prayer book to aid in the recitation.
“I knew he was a religious man and it was important to him that his family pray with him,” Maher told Israel Hayom. “I don’t know the entire prayer exactly, but I knew how important it was that he hear the words ‘Shema Yisrael.’ We knew him and his family. We were fond of him. We prayed with him, for his own sake and his family.”
Jews recite the “Shema” twice a day, in the morning and at night, as an acceptance of the kingship of God.
Hear, O Yisrael! Hashem is our God, Hashem alone. Deuteronomy 6:4
According to the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron combs, and died reciting the Shema. He pronounced the last word of the sentence, Eḥad (“one”) with his last breath. Since then, it has been traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words.
“It was clear to me that he wanted us to recite the Shema prayer for him. We have one God,” Maher continued. ′′Sometimes we are the last voice a patient hears, especially during the Corona period, when they are away from families. We need to be there for them, as people before we are there as caregivers.”
“It was important to me that his daughter would know, and maybe it would console her and the family a bit that at least we managed to recite the Shema,” he added.
In Judaism, caring for those who have passed away is called Chesed shel Emet (kindness of truth). It is considered the highest level of kindness as it can never be repaid in kind.
Glaster’s daughter told Israel Hayom: “It was a difficult, sad day. My father never stopped talking about the devoted care he received and how thankful he was to Maher and the entire team.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu called up Maher and praised him for his sensitive act towards a dying person.