An Outsiders Guide To Jewish Funerals

Jewish funerals are a sacred rite filled with dignity, and strictly follows Jewish tradition. The first step of the deceased’s family is to consult the Rabbi after the death. It’s important to realize that dealing with a death in the Jewish family is a very well thought of, and sacred event.

To the Jewish, death is part of their philosophy of life that’s always held in high regard, as well as viewed with dignity and the upmost respect. Jewish beliefs regarding the body after death are that the body once held a holy life, and still retains the sanctity.

The sacredness of the deceased is often compared to the Torah scroll, that’s no longer used, yet still retains the holiness. Helping to enable the continuous consideration, and up most respect of the dead.

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According to Jewish laws and traditions, the mourning practices and funeral of the deceased are directly related to their profound religious practices and beliefs. The family of the deceased will dress accordingly, in a solemn fashion with flowers and music being highly inappropriate.

Embalming and viewing of the body are avoided with interment for the burial to take place quickly after the death. Jewish funeral preparation and burial are highly valued mitzvoth. This is a chesed shel emet (act of absolute kindness without any ulterior motive for the dead) When a member in the Jewish community dies, it’s the responsibility of the community to lovingly, and willingly assist the deceased’s family in the funeral processes.

The Jewish congregation is to establish a Hevra Kadisha to assist the family in arranging the Jewish funeral according to their tradition. The funeral director is to observe the traditional beliefs and customs. Consulting the Rabbi during this process is extremely beneficial. In some Jewish societies, there are Jewish cemeteries and these can be used with prior consent, and consultation of the Rabbi.

Jewish funerals are held in a synagogue, at the gravesite, or a funeral home. The services are short and brief. They include chanting of the psalms, and traditional memorial prayer called Ely Malei Rahamim to honor the deceased. A Cantor will sometimes chant these traditions.

The viewing of the body is totally contrary to all Jewish tradition whether it’s a public or private viewing. The casket is covered with a pall-a special cloth that’s borne from the funeral service to the gravesite by the pallbearers. Pall bearers, are family or friends that are selected by the deceased’s family. The pallbearers follow tradition while carrying the casket. They will stop seven times to the grave. The mourners, friends, and family follow the casket to show respect to the deceased.

Any fraternal ceremony that interferes with the solemn traditional service is considered highly inappropriate. The casket is traditionally lowered into the grave then filled with a reversed shovel that forms a mound over the casket. The Kaddish is then recited , after the k’vurah is completed. As with all religions, tradition may vary so consulting the Rabbi for the exact steps is recommended. If the spouse is non-Jewish, they are not to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. This is something to be discussed with the Rabbi since the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has made exceptions to this rule in the past.

When leaving the cemetery, mourners are to walk between two rows of attendees of the services following traditional expressions of honor for the deceased. This helps to show consolation to the family of the deceased. Washing of the hands after leaving the cemetery or before they enter the family’s home is another tradition to be followed closely to always show respect to the deceased and the family of the deceased.

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