A purification of the deceased body is done by The ChevraÂ Kadisha. This is a sacred society made up of a group of men and women who perform the ritual of cleansing and preparing the body for burial. A white gown with no pockets or decorations, called a Tachrichim, is wornÂ for burial. It symbolizes that whenÂ mortals leave this world they take nothing with them, and judgment from God is based on merits and good deeds, not materialistic belongings.
In Judaism a mourner is considered to be KaddishÂ related. This means that the mourners are obligated to observe and conduct the rites of mourning. Parents, spouses, siblings and children of the deceased are considered mourners and it is their responsibility to make sure thatÂ proper Jewish funeral rites are carried out.
Traditional Jewish funerals take place in a temple, synagogue or graveside. Funeral guestsÂ dress conservatively. Men wear a head covering called a kippah or yarmulke, and most often a suite and tie. Women are not required to wear head coverings, however, they do not wear short sleeves, short skirts or open toed shoes.
You will notice that most Jewish funerals will not have many flower arrangements other than one or two small casket tributes. Most Jewish funerals ask that a charitable donation be made instead of sending flowers.
Family members (mourners) will more than likely be in a waiting room or in a vehicle prior to the service. This is because it is disrespectful to talk to the mourners before the burial. No condolencesÂ are toÂ be offered until after the service is over.
Traditional Jewish services usually last about 20 minutes and consist of several Scripture readings, Psalms, prayers and a eulogy. The Rabbi will lead the congregation through the service beginning with the cutting of a black ribbon. Participation is encouragedÂ throughout theÂ prayers.
Prior to or after the service the mourners perform the ritual K’riah. It is an ancient custom, traditionally tearing garments, but has now evolved into attaching a black ribbon to the outside of the clothing worn by the mourners. A special prayerÂ is said during the cutting of the ribbon: ‘Dayan Ha’emet‘ meaning ‘Blessed is the judge of truth’.
- The ribbon isÂ worn on the left side if they are mourning a parent.
- It is worn on theÂ right side for all other Kaddish relatives.
- The ribbons are traditionally worn for 7 days. However, the mourners of a parent wearÂ it for 30 days.
ChairsÂ surround the burial site for the mourners to sit. Friends and family will stand or sit surrounding the family during the burial. Prayers are said along with ChesedÂ Shel Emet which is considered the greatest act of kindness to the departed. Where mourners and guests take part in the burial by placing a handful or shovel full of dirt or rocksÂ in the grave.
A Shura is then formed by the guests at the service. It is a double line facing each other forming a pathway for the mourners to pass through and receive words of condolences. This will be the first time that mourners will receive any comforting words from guests at the service. A traditional expressionÂ often said to the family during the Shura is “‘Ha-MakomÂ yenahemÂ etkhemÂ b’tokhÂ sha ar aveileiÂ TzionÂ v Yerushalayim’ meaning ‘May the Omnipresent comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem’.
- Washing your hands when leaving the cemetery is customary in the Judaism. You may do this at home or before you enter the Shiva home.
Following Jewish tradition a Shiva is held at the home of the mourners. This is one of the most meaningful traditions in the Jewish faith. The community will offer a meal for the mourners at their home. Family and guests will attend to console and express sympathy to the family.
- The Shiva is a seven-day period for mourning beginning the day of burial. MournersÂ will stay home during this time. The only time a mourner will leave home is on Shabbat to attend a service in the Synagogue. Everyday during the seven days there will be three prayer services at the home when the mourners will recite the Kaddish prayer.
During the seven days of Shiva it is appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved. You may notice that mirrors are covered, candlesÂ are lit, menÂ are unshaven and womenÂ are not wearing makeup. This is a tradition that symbolizes the great disruption the death has brought to the family.