Ear­li­er this week, NY Times best-sell­ing author Sara David­son wrote about talk­ing to your par­ents about death and about she came to write her mem­oir The Decem­ber Project (Harper­One), which is based on her con­ver­sa­tions with Reb Zal­man Schachter-Shalo­mi about how get­ting up close with mor­tal­i­ty” quick­ens our abil­i­ty to rel­ish every day. She has been blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

The Tal­mud says that on the day before we die, we should be sure to do teshu­va” — turn­ing your aware­ness to God.

How is that pos­si­ble, since we don’t know what day we’ll die?” I asked Reb Zal­man Schachter-Shalo­mi, founder of the Jew­ish Renew­al Movement. 

He laughed. That’s why we need to do teshu­va every day.” He said this can be as sim­ple as, while talk­ing to a friend, watch­ing T.V. or cook­ing din­ner, turn­ing your thoughts to God. If I’m talk­ing to my friend, there’s the divine in her, and if I remem­ber that, I’m also pay­ing atten­tion to God.”

When you eat din­ner, he said, think about how the food and drink come from God.

If you need a reminder, he sug­gest­ed hang­ing a bell in your car, so when you hit a bump and it rings, you can say, I’m aware of you, God,” or Thank you, God, for a car that car­ries me where I need to go.” He’s had a bell in his own car for years. If, God for­bid, I should die in a car crash, my last thought would not be, Oh shit, but a prayer to God.” 

You could also hang the bell in a door­way in your home, low enough so it rings when you pass. Or you can try oth­er cues: each time you stop for a red light, let it remind you that God cre­at­ed light.

If you make this a habit, Reb Zal­man told me, you’ll be sure to ful­fill the com­mand­ment to do teshu­va the day before you die. 

As I stood up to leave, he reached in a box and gave me a small brass bell to hang on the rear view mir­ror of my car. Then, as was his habit, he broke into song: The bell is ring­ing, for me and my God.”

All rii­i­i­ight.

To read more about Sara David­son’s Fri­days with Reb Zal­man,” click here.

In addi­tion to The Decem­ber Project, Sara David­son is the author of Leap!: What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives?, Loose Change: Three Women of the Six­ties, Cow­boy: A Nov­el, Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friend­ship with Joan Did­ion.

Relat­ed Content:

In 2009, Reb Zal­man Schachter-Shalo­mi asked N.Y. Times best-sell­ing author Sara David­son to talk with him about The Decem­ber Project.” He want­ed to help peo­ple not freak out about dying, and show how get­ting up close with mor­tal­i­ty” quick­ens our abil­i­ty to rel­ish every day. Davidson’s mem­oir of the two years they spent meet­ing every week, The Decem­ber Project, will be pub­lished March 25 by Harper­One. David­son is also the author of Loose Change, Leap! and Joan: Forty Years of Love, Loss and Friend­ship with Joan Did­ion. Read more about her here.

How the Rab­bi Hooked Me

How to Have The Talk”

The One Thing You Should Do the Day Before You Die