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Parshas Devarim (5775)

Famous Last Words

Dying words are a very special form of quotation. Some are rehearsed and contrived; others are spontaneous and witty. Whatever the motivation or preparedness, 'famous last words' give us a glimpse into the character of the individuals who uttered those words before expiring.

First we present to you some famous – or not so famous – ‘last words’ in a more humorous vein, followed by actual ‘famous last words’ spoken by (mostly) well-known historical personalities:

~ “He's probably just hibernating.”
~ “I can make this light before it changes.”
~ “I'll get a world record for this.”
~ “I've seen this done on TV.”
~ “I wonder where the mother bear is.”
~ “That's odd.”
~ “These are the good kind of mushrooms.”
~ “This planet has an atmosphere just like on Earth.”
~ “What does this button do?”
~ “What duck?”
~ “I don't need a helmet.”
~ “Go on, get out - last words are for fools who haven't said enough.” (Karl Marx to his housekeeper, who urged him to tell her his last words so she could write them down for posterity.)
~ “Why do you weep? Did you think I was immortal?” (Louis XIV, King of France, d. 1715)
~ “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.” (George Appel, executed by electric chair in 1928.)
~ “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” (P. T. Barnum, circus entrepreneur)
~ “I'm so bored with it all.” (Winston Churchill, before slipping into a coma and dying nine days later.)
~ “One last drink, please.” (Jack Daniel, whiskey distiller)
~ “Love one another.” (George Harrison, who died from cancer on Nov.29, 2001)
~ “Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.” (hotel magnate Conrad Hilton when asked if he had any last words of wisdom.)
~ “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.” (Alfred Hitchcock)
~ “Above all, I charge the leadership of the nation and their followers with the strict observance of the racial laws and with merciless resistance against the universal poisoners of all peoples, international Jewry.” (These are the last sentences in Adolf Hitler's last will and political testament. They were issued on April 29,1945, 4:00 AM. Hitler committed suicide the next day.)
~ “Good-bye, good-bye all. It's God's way. His will, not ours, be done.” (William McKinley, 25th President of the United States, assassinated in 1901)

~ “Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do”’ (Groucho Marx)
~ “Shema Yisrael…!” (Jews on their deathbeds)
~ “Oh, G-d!” (pilots in plane crashes)
~ “I love you!” (those trapped in Twin Towers on 9/11 to their loved ones)

This weekend in synagogues all around the world we begin reading the Book of Deuteronomy. This is the fifth and final book of the Torah, and was spoken by Moses in the last five weeks of his life. I guess we could say that it was Moses’ ‘famous last words’ – his last will and testament - to his beloved people. He imparted to them sage advice and great wisdom intended to help them make the most out of their lives and reach their true potential in the Land of Israel.

One day, hopefully after 120 long years of good health and happiness, we will all be on our deathbeds, and will have an opportunity to share our own ‘famous last words’ to our loved ones who are at our bedside. What will we say? What kind of example did we set for our children throughout our lives? What is the legacy that we want to leave behind and be remembered by? Did we make proper, moral decisions throughout our lives? Did we take our religion and our connection to G-d seriously throughout the years? Did we accomplish our life goals? Or did we let things lapse?

These are tough questions that really need to be discussed and pondered long before we are on our deathbeds. For there is nothing more wonderful than a life well lived … and nothing more tragic than a wasted life. And the living has to be done now so that by the time we are at the end of our lives we will have some really important and inspirational last words to share with everyone around us.

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