Jewish Funeral Traditions
There are several different denominations within Judaism, and most of them have different views concerning Jewish funeral traditions. Most of those different sects within the faith happen to believe that holiness is attained through following all the commandments and laws laid out in the Torah.
The Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament in the bible, is believed to have been written by Moses, and inspired to him by God.
Jewish Funeral Traditions
Many Jews believe the soul of the deceased is judged, and those that have led perfect lives are let into the World to Come, while those that did not lead perfect lives must wait one year before gaining entry into the World to Come. A Resurrection is also promised to occur once the Messiah comes.
Caring For the Dead
Death is viewed as a natural process in Judaism, and it’s usually not considered a tragedy. Autopsies are generally discouraged as a desecration of the body, but they are permitted if it can help save a life or solve a crime. Also, the body is not embalmed, and no organs can be removed, although, some believe that organ donation is permitted.
The body is covered and laid on the floor with lit candles next to the body. After a person dies, the body is never left alone until after burial, mostly as a sign of respect. While the “Shomerin” or the guards watch over the body, they do not eat or drink, as a sign of respect.
Those in the presence of the deceased must wash their hands before entering a home, even if they never touched the body, as a symbolic gesture to remove spiritual impurity.
The body is cleaned and wrapped in a plain linen shroud, and the coffin should similarly be plain. Finally, cremation is not allowed, and the coffin is then buried in the ground.
Mourning For the Dead
There are several mourning periods, which decrease in intensity over time. These periods allow the mourner to gradually return to their normal lives.
The mourner wears a torn piece of clothing, if the deceased is a close relative. If a parent died, the son or daughter would wear the torn clothing over their heart. A prompt burial is necessary, while caring for the body and preparing it for burial is the sole responsibility of the mourning family.
After the burial, a relative or close friend prepares the first meal for the mourners, and then condolence calls are allowed.
“Shiva” begins the day after burial, and parents, children, spouses and siblings of the deceased observe this memorial in the house of the deceased, usually. Mourners don’t shave or wear makeup, and they don’t work for seven days after burial, as they grieve. Prayer services are held where the Shiva takes place, and mirrors of the house are covered.
After Shiva, “Shloshim” begins, which is when mourners don’t shave, cut their hair or listen to music for 30 days. “Shloshim,” in fact, means “thirty” in Hebrew.
Finally, “Avelut” occurs as the last period of mourning, and is only observed for the death of a parent. This period lasts a full 12 months, and mourners are to avoid parties and other celebrations during that time. The son of the deceased would also recite the Kaddish prayer every day during the first 11 months.
“Kaddish” is widely considered a mourner’s prayer, but it can also be said during other times, to help reaffirm faith after a great loss.
If you live in the South Florida area, and you have more questions or concerns about Jewish funeral traditions, please come talk to the staff at The Gardens of Boca Raton Cemetery and Funeral Services.