Jewish Funeral

Overview

Published: 05/17/2010

by Funeral Home Resource Team

Photos

Jewish funerals are very similar in most respects to christian Funerals. The first thing to do after a death in the family is to contact your rabbi or another synagogue leader. If you do not have a family rabbi, just about any funeral homes can suggest rabbis who will conduct a funeral. Jewish burials take place as quickly as possible, usually within 24 hours, following a principle of honoring the dead (k'vod hamet). Only if immediate relatives cannot arrive in time from abroad, or there is not enough time for burial before Shabbat or a holiday, are burials postponed for a day. Anything less is considered a "humiliation of the dead,"

Jewish Funeral law mandates a simple pine box, so although you will need to choose a cemetery plot, you will not need to worry about selecting a fancy coffin or if they wanted cremation.

Most well organized communities offer the services a sacred burial society (Chevra Kaddisha), which will prepare the body for burial. Men prepare men and women prepare women. They wash the body with warm water from head to foot and, although they may turn the body as necessary to clean it entirely, including all orifices, they never place it face down. The body is dressed in white burial shrouds (tachrichim), which are purposely kept simple to avoid distinguishing between rich or poor. Men are buried with their prayer shawls (tallits), which are rendered ineffective by cutting off one of the fringes.

Traditional Jewish funerals are very simple and usually relatively brief. Before they begin, the immediate relatives of the deceased – siblings, parents, children, spouse – tear their garments to symbolize their loss.

Sometimes the rabbi will tear their garments for them and recite a blessing, "Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu melech haolam, dayan ha'emet," Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, the true Judge. A shorter version of the same blessing is recited by all who witness or hear about a death: "Baruch dayan emet," Blessed is the one true Judge.

Following the burial, non-family members form two lines and, as the mourners pass by them, they recite the traditional condolence: "Hamakom y'nachem etchem b'toch sh'ar availai tziyon ee yerushalayim." May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. In traditional funerals, before leaving the cemetery mourners wash their hands as a symbolic cleansing.

After the burial, it is customary for the family to sit Shiva (in mourning). This was traditionally done for seven days, although many Reform and other Jews now sit Shiva for three days, and some for one day. Traditional Jews cover all mirrors during this time and sit on Shiva benches, however less observant Jews do not. It is customary for friends and family of the deceased as well as friends of the deceased's relatives to pay a Shiva call to the designated location where people are sitting Shiva, usually at the home of a close family member. Jews do not send flowers, but when paying a Shiva call it is appropriate to bring food, because the person mourning is not supposed to worry about such mundane matters.

Jewish Death Rituals According to Jewish Law

* The body of the deceased is washed thoroughly.
* The deceased is buried in a simple pine coffin.
* The deceased is buried wearing a simple white shroud (tachrichim).
* The body is guarded or watched from the moment of death until after burial.
* Just before a funeral begins, the immediate relatives of the deceased tear their garments or the rabbi does this to them or hands them torn black ribbons to pin on their clothes to symbolize their loss.
* Upon hearing about a death, a Jew recites the words, "Baruch dayan emet," Blessed be the one true Judge.