Jewish Funeral Customs
When death takes a loved one, life seems empty and the future dark. Jews have guidance at sad times in our lives, because tradition has outlined ways to deal with death and its grief. Modern psychology has recognized the therapeutic value of the Jewish rituals and practices which help us to express our grief rather than repress it, to talk about our loss with friends and to move step by step from inactivity to normal living.
What To Do When a Death Occurs
Call the Jewish Funeral Home to arrange for proper care of the deceased. If a death occurs in a hospital, their staff can make this call for you. If a loved one dies out of town, call a Jewish funeral facility. If funeral prearrangements have not been made, you can ease the strain of planning the funeral by having someone, perhaps a close friend or family member, help you make decisions.If you need assistance in choosing the funeral home, cemetery or other arrangements call Rabbi Dimarsky atl 773/973-1800
Before the Funeral
Telephone immediate family, close friends and employer or business colleagues. Once the funeral time has been set, prepare the obituary. Items to consider including are: age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships in organizations, military service or noteworthy achievements. List survivors in the immediate family. Give the time and place of the funeral. Suggest where memorial contributions may be made. Choose the pallbearers. Pallbearers are necessary when a funeral is held at the Synagogue; they are optional for a graveside service. Six people who can carry the casket are needed. It is customary not to choose immediate family members (like husband, brother or son). You will need to discuss the eulogy with the Rabbi. Be open and give as much personal insight as possible. Avoid false or exaggerated praise. Tell the good things enthusiastically; remember to mention what might be best left unsaid. It is wise to arrange for a house sitter during the funeral. Criminals often use obituaries to determine a time to break into homes.
The period of time between death and burial is called anninus and the bereaved is called an onen. The prime responsibility of the onen is to arrange the funeral. During this time, an onen is exempt from positive religious obligations. Only relatives or very close friends should visit during this time, primarily to help make arrangements for the funeral and shivah. After the funeral, a mourner is known as an avel. One is a mourner by obligation for parents, children, siblings or spouse.
Preparation for Burial
Our tradition has long stood for simplicity in funerals and mourning. A simple wooden casket is preferred. An ornate all-wood casket, though ritually acceptable, is not in the spirit of the law. Cremation is strictly forbidden. Before the deceased is dressed for burial, we observe the ritual of tahara, of ritual washing, done by the hevra kadisha (the Sacred Society). We dress the body only in traditional burial shrouds, tachrichin, which are simple white garments. Jewish tradition does not allow autopsies. However, there are times when an autopsy might be required by law or is needed for other reasons. Each case must be reviewed independently. Speak to Rabbi Dimarsky for further information. Jewish tradition does not allow embalming.
Flowers are not part of Jewish mourning practice. In the spirit of honoring the memory of the dead by helping the living, suggest in the obituary that in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to Heritage Russian Jewish Congregation or to other appropriate charity. In Russian community many people feel very strong about bringing flowers to the funeral. If people bring flowers you can accept them.
The Funeral Service
A funeral can be held at graveside, the Synagogue or in the chapel of the Funeral home or cemetery. A service held only at graveside includes the same elements as those begun at another location. It is shorter because certain elements are repeated when a service is held in two locations. A graveside funeral is no less dignified nor less giving of honor to the deceased than any other service. The funeral service is brief. Selections are read from Psalms and a eulogy, depicting the life of the deceased as a guide for the living, is presented. Kel maleh rachamim, which expresses our faith in the immortality of the soul, is recited on most days. Once at graveside, the service consists of recitation of tziduk ha-din, a prayer which expresses our acceptance of God's decisions.
Kriah is a centuries old symbol of inner grief and mourning. Mourners stand as they perform it, showing we face grief directly and that we will survive, even without our beloved departed. Before the cut is made, mourners say the blessing:
After the casket is fully in the grave, the interment is begun by shoveling some earth into the grave. This mitzvah, is known as chesed shel emes, true loving-kindness. This mitzvah demonstrates our continuing concern for the deceased as we make sure the final journey of the met is completed. Participating in this mitzvah has been shown to be of great psychological benefit for mourners since it serves as an important action of finality and closure. After the grave is completely covered with earth, the mourners say Kadish.
After the funeral, those attending form two lines to let the mourners pass between them.
Children at a Funeral
Should children attend a funeral? There is no hard and fast rule that applies. If a child is old enough to understand the purpose of the funeral and to know that people will be upset, then generally that child should come to the funeral. The child should sit with an adult he or she knows during the service. Remember that children need the opportunity to say "good-bye" to a loved one as do adults. It is not good to deprive a child who is old enough to understand of an opportunity to say farewell and to begin to grieve.
Shivah lasts seven days. The day of the funeral is the first day and one hour of the seventh day counts as a full day. Shivah is suspended at couple hours before Shabbos and is resumed after Shabbos is over. If a major holiday, such as Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur falls during the shivah period, shivah is concluded at couple hours before the festival.
Mourners should try to stay together at the place where shivah is observed. If they cannot, they may sleep in their own homes and return to the shivah house in the morning. Mourners should not go to work during this time. In its wisdom, our tradition recognizes that when a major change in life has taken place, the survivor needs to step out of everyday activity for a while. If it is imperative for a person to go back to work, one may return after three full days. However, this does not end shivah. After the work day is over, one should return home and resume shivah observance.
People pay "shivah calls" to fulfill the mitzvah of nihum avelim, comforting the mourners. These visits demonstrate community concern at the time of loss. The visits help the mourners over the feelings of isolation or desertion, both of which are natural feelings after the death of a loved one. Even if many people have gathered, those present should be sure a party-like atmosphere does not develop. Conversation should center on the life and memories of the departed. Contrary to popular belief, talking about the deceased is helpful to the mourner. Such conversations help the mourner to begin the process of getting over their grief. If you have been through a time of personal grief and the mourner asks you how you felt or how you managed, share your own experience. Mourners often take comfort in knowing that others have experienced similar feelings.
It is traditional to hold services at a house of shivah. Our Synagogue can provide prayer books for use in homes. If a family does not have morning and evening services in the home during the week of shivah, it is proper to attend services at the Synagogue and then return home. During shivah, mourners attend Shabbos services at the Synagogue: Friday evening, Saturday morning and evening.
The length of the mourning period varies with on the mourner's relation to the deceased. For all but parents, avelus, the mourning period, ends with shloshim, thirty days after the funeral. For parents, the mourning period lasts a full Hebrew year.
Although Jewish Law requires that the Kaddish be recited during the first eleven months following the death of a loved one by prescribed mourners, and on each anniversary of the death the Yahrtzeit, there is no reference, no word even, about death in the prayer!
Yisgadal veYiskadash Shmei Rabo B’Olmo diVro Chireusei veYamlich Malchusey
Yehe Shmei Rabo Mevoroch LeOlom Uleolmey Olmoyoh.
Yisborach VeYishtabach VeYispoar VeYisromam VeYisnase
Le’elo Min Kol Birchoso VeShiroso Tushbechoso VeNechemoso De’Amiran BeAlmo,
Yehe Shlomo Rabo Min Shemaya VeChayim Oleinu VeAl Kol Yisroel
Oseh Sholom Bimromov Hu Yaase Sholom Oleinu VeAl Kol Yisroel
May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One,
May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel.
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.
Йисгадаль вэйискадаш шмэй рабо.
Да возвысится и освятится Его великое имя в мире, сотворенном по воле Его.
Да будет благословляемо и восхваляемо, и прославляемо, и возвеличиваемо,
и превозносимо, и почитаемо, и воспеваемо имя святого творца, благословен он.
Превыше всех благословлений и песнопений, восхвалений и утешительных слов, произносимых в мире, и скажем: Омейн! Устанавливающий мир на небесах оно пошлет мир нам, и всему Израилю, и скажем: Омейн!
If you would like us to say Kadish for someone, please contact Heritage office.