Amy Winehouse & Self-Destruction

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Suicide:  Jewish Views


Amy Winehouse, a Jewish singer was found dead in her home this past Saturday.  She was twenty-seven years old, and known for her impressive voice and the many accolades she received for her talent.  There was no rational reason why she ended her career suddenly by her inability to stop her addiction to drugs and other mind altering substances. 

Her death caused the examination of the Jewish view regarding self annihilation/suicide.  Suicide is forbidden by Jewish law.  It is considered a serious “nevere” (sin). It is not seen as an acceptable alternative under any or all circumstances.

According to Chassidic and Jewish theology/philosophy each soul descends into the world to perform  missions, “mitzwot” (Ideally six hundred and thirteen good deeds). We have been brought here by “Hashem”and it is his prerogative to send us to “olem habo”, the world to come.  Assisted suicide is included in this tenet.  The human being who is so ill or so depressed has to be given help while alive to continue on this earth.  Pain control and psychological assistance are very important to prevent suicidal thinking.  People contemplating suicide are often alone and are not given interest to help them to remain alive. Continued reaffirmation by family and friends, by people, are important deterrents to help the human being to live as long as possible. Social support is essential in encouraging the stricken individual to live rather than to yearn to die. In the antiseptic environment where the dying are often placed, it is essential to visit the sick/dying individual to give hope, to listen, to protect, and give strength.  Letting the very ill person know what he/she means to the visitor, the adult child, the parent, the friend, is an essential ingredient in encouraging the patient to feel worthwhile and important. 

Although killing oneself is forbidden under normal Jewish law as being a denial of G’ds goodness and compassion, under extreme circumstances when  there has been no choice to either be killed or forced to betray the Jewish religion, Jews have committed suicide.  Even that is not sanctioned by our law as it is stated.

We are not certain why life was so unbearable for Amy Winehouse and why she killed herself, why she imbibed in alcohol and other drugs, why she had no loving relationships that had meaning for such a young and talented young woman.  Unfortunately she is not alive to let us know what plagued her so much that she took the final step which stilled her voice for eternity.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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