Jewish funeral ceremonies in the United States are as diverse as they are one-of-a-kind. While most of us remember our fathers and mothers, we may not know much about their life beyond the fundamentals. In reality, many Jewish families have kept their customs secret for centuries, with no one else around to witness the experience.
This makes it difficult to assist a bereaved family, especially if no one understands how to speak with their relatives or friends about what happened. An independent funeral director in your town can help you organize a Jewish funeral or burial according to Jewish customs.
The Basics of Jewish Funeral
The body is cleansed, covered in shrouds, and set out in a prayer chamber during the Jewish funeral service. After a one-hour prayer ceremony, the body is clothed in a Yarmulka (skull cap) and covered in a tallit (prayer shawl), then put in an open coffin for viewing. According to Jewish law, the family will preside over the burial and bid their tearful farewell to the deceased before burying him/her.
One of the most important mitzvahs, or commandments, of the Jewish faith, is to treat the recently departed with dignity and to bury them as soon as possible. The deceased is handled with care to maintain the body’s integrity, and burial must take place as quickly as feasible. The soul is more readily able to return to the Source from which it is taken if the physical body is returned to the soil as soon as possible.
The Taharah is the ritual cleaning and grooming of the body. This rite, which entails pouring water over the corpse, is typically done by a group of community men and women known as the Chevra Kadisha, or “The Holy Society.” These devoted overseers scrub and sterilize the corpse in preparation for the next chapter of its life, and then clothe it in a white linen shroud or simple white cloth.
Jewish Burial Arrangements
The Levayah (“accompaniment”) of the body to its last burial place is another method Jewish mourners honor the bereaved. Because the Hebrew word levayah also means “connecting” or “bonding,” the funeral procession is a powerfully symbolic manner of affirming that those who loved the departed are still and permanently linked together by “the essential Divine nature that all souls share.”
Mourners are also certain that The soul is calmed as it traverses the arduous passage from one life to another by participating in the levayah and accompanying the deceased to the burial. This is often done by strolling behind the coffin as it is carried to the hearse or at the cemetery when the coffin is transported from the hearse to the graveyard.
Jewish beliefs about death
According to Jewish law, the body must be returned to the soil in its whole. Cremation, autopsy, and embalming are thus prohibited. The body must decompose naturally to reintegrate with the earth from which it was produced. This also expedites the soul’s return to its Source. Open-casket funerals and other displays of the corpse are prohibited and considered a breach of the deceased’s dignity and privacy.
Jewish custom states that, if at all feasible, only other Jews should handle a deceased Jew’s body, carry the casket, and lower it into the grave. The eulogy (Hesped) concentrates on the deceased’s best qualities and includes examples of the good that he or she performed in life. Following the burial, the top of the coffin is frequently fully covered with soil thrown by the hands of Jews in attendance.
Rabbis established the casketless funeral to symbolize the idea that humans are in both life and death, and that all people are created equal. The basic burial, along with the wearing of a plain, white shroud, also functions as a financial equalizer, preventing the grieving family from spending more on funeral fees than is reasonable.
Many Jewish faiths keep the spirit of these old practices alive today. Embalming, cremation, and mausoleum entombment are all forbidden. The body must be laid to rest on the earth. Because a casket is required in many western nations, Jews honor the historical custom by ensuring the “aron” (Yiddish for “coffin”) is entirely built of plain, decomposable wood.
The body might return to its source when the casket decomposes over time. There are sometimes holes in the bottom to allow for faster decomposition, and Jewish families may request perforated or partial grave liners instead of concrete so that the coffin can make touch the ground.
The inside of a coffin is usually as basic and unadorned as the outside, with no luxurious lining. It is customary to bury the deceased with merely a prayer shawl and possibly Israeli soil, but no personal items or souvenirs. The corpse is wrapped in a white linen shroud and put into the casket face-up with open hands, representing the belief that we come into the world with nothing and leave with nothing; yet another reminder of everyone’s equality.
Jewish Funeral Traditions
Open-casket funerals are forbidden by Jewish custom because they are considered insulting to the departed. Flowers are not used to decorating Jewish caskets since they represent a happier event.
Jewish funerals are typically twenty minutes long and include the recitation of Psalms, Scripture readings, and a eulogy.
Jewish funerals in the United States are filled with sadness and respect. It is time to recall the good moments and concentrate on getting yourself, your family, and your friends through this difficult period. Funerals and interments are among the most important religious observances in Judaism. We provide a comprehensive selection of Jewish funeral services in the United States.
Lastly, the funeral is a natural aspect of life that affects everyone. However, it must be done with care and taste. It’s a crucial aspect of life that may take many forms, from just viewing the corpse to looking via a glass barrier to emotionless cremation (which is sometimes preferred). Jewish funerals differ greatly from those observed by other religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.