Funeral Arrangements and Customs
Many of the Jewish Customs and rituals of a funeral are not known or understood by most people. At Kehila Chapels, all religious requirements regardless of one’s level of observance are respected. Our directors and staff are able to explain the various guidelines followed by Jewish families. Although morning is a very personal experience, please keep in mind that there are many varying mourning customs and one should always try to follow one’s family’s or community’s practices. We suggest that you always consult with your Rabbi for personal guidance and to answer your questions related to Jewish funeral and mourning traditions. If you do not have access to a personal Rabbi, please feel free to contact Kehila Chapels. We will refer you to a Rabbi sensitive to your family’s special needs and who will try to answer your questions and advise you.
Upon unfortunately receiving news of a death
Traditionally, upon receiving the news of a loved one’s demise the following blessing is recited: Baruch Dayan Ha-Emes (Blessed are you, Lord, the true righteous judge).
A funeral service can be held at the cemetery close to the gravesite or in a funeral chapel, synagogue, temple or community room. After the completion of the service at the chapel, or other facility, the mourners and their vehicular entourage follow the hearse in a procession to the cemetery for the burial.
It is common that several people give a Hesped (eulogy) at the place of the funeral service, as well as prior to burial at the gravesite. Traditionally, on certain days of the year, such as on Chol HaMo’ed (“intermediate days” of Jewish holidays), eulogies are avoided.
The mourners traditionally tear K’riah (rendering), on a garment. The tear should be on the left side for a parent (which is over the heart and clearly visible), and on the right side for brothers, sisters, children and spouses (and does not need to be visible). In recent times, should a mourner choose to not tear their garment, a black ribbon is attached to their clothing in the appropriate location (as mentioned earlier), hence becoming a part of their garment, and which is torn instead. Traditionally, the blessing: Baruch Dayan Ha-Emes (Blessed are you, Lord, the true righteous judge) is recited by the mourner prior to the tearing.
Jewish tradition dictates that the Kevura (burial) take place as soon as possible after death. Typically, when the funeral service has ended at the cemetery, the mourners and their extended family and friends come forward to fill the grave. Symbolically, one reason offered is that it gives the mourners their first sense of closure as they watch the grave being filled. Also, while this occurs, some have a custom to add a handful of earth from Israel. Once the grave is minimally filled, to cover the casket, or completely filled, to mound the grave, the Kel Maleh Rachamim (the Memorial Prayer) is said. This is followed by the mourners Kaddish. Immediately afterwards, the mourners walk between two rows of attending friends and extended family directly back to their vehicles. As they walk they are offered the condolences by those standing in the two rows. Traditionally, the words said to the mourners are the following: Ha’makom Ye’nachem Es’chem B’soch She’or A’vay’lay Tzion Vee’ye’ru’sha’la’im (May the Almighty console you amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem)
The Traditional Stages of Mourning
The first stage of mourning is Aninus, (intense mourning). An Onen (a person in Aninus) is considered to be in a state of total shock and disorientation. Thus the Onen is exempt from performing any positive Mitzvos (deeds) that require action (and attention), such as praying and reciting blessings and wearing Tefillin (Phylacteries). This was enacted by G-d in order for the Onen to be able to tend unhindered to the funeral arrangements. The only exception to this rule is the keeping of the Sabbath. The Onan may not eat meat, drink wine or liquor and may not conduct normal business hours.
Aninus is immediately followed by Avelus (mourning). Avelim (mourners) avoid music and concerts. They do not attend any joyous events or parties such as marriages or Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, unless absolutely necessary. They should consult a Rabbi for specific guidelines.
Avelus consists of three distinct periods:
Shiva – Seven Days
Immediately after the funeral the mourner begins Shiva (literally translated from Hebrew to mean “seven”). The day of burial is counted as the first day and the seventh day usually concludes after the Morning Prayer services.
Upon returning from the cemetery the mourners partake of a special meal traditionally provided by family, neighbors or friends of the bereaved. Also, at this point in bereavement, friends move from the role of a spectator to participant in the relief of the mourner’s anguish. Mourners should be served bread or rolls considered to be the staff of life and hard-boiled eggs symbolic of the circle of life. Eggs are also the only food which harden when cooked, teaching us that man must learn to steel himself when death occurs. This meal should be the first one eaten on the day of internment.
It is a tradition to cover all mirrors in the Shiva home except in bathrooms. This is done, because self-adoration and one’s concern with external appeal should be minimized because of the personal family tragedy.
FOR A MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION OF SHIVA, ETIQUETTE FOR ONE VISITING A SHIVA HOUSE, AS WELL AS A SHIVA CALENDAR, WE SUGGEST YOU REVIEW THE COMPLIMETARY BOOKLET: The First Seven Days by Meir Wikler
Shloshim – Thirty Days
The thirty day period following the death (including the Shiva) is known as Shloshim, (literally translated from Hebrew to mean “thirty”). During Shloshim, a mourner is forbidden to marry or to attend a Seudas Mitzvah (“religious festive meal”). Traditional men do not shave or get haircuts during this time.
Shneim Asar Chodesh – Twelve months
Those mourning a parent additionally observe a twelve month period, counted from the day of death. During this period, most daily activities return to normal. The mourners continue to recite the mourner’s Kaddish as part of synagogue services for eleven months, rather than twelve, yet there remain restrictions on attending festive occasions and large gatherings, especially where live music is played until after the twelfth month.
The central theme of the Kaddish is the magnification and sanctification of G-d’s name. In the liturgy, different versions of the Kaddish are used functionally as separators between various sections of the service. The term “Kaddish” is often used to refer specifically to “The Mourners’ Kaddish“, said by mourners in all prayer services as well as at funerals and memorials. When mention is made of “saying Kaddish“, this unambiguously denotes the rituals of mourning.
IF A FAMILY IS UNABLE TO ASSUME THE RESPONSIBILTY OF THE KADDISH THREE TIMES EACH DAY FOR THEIR LOVED ONE, PLEASE CONTACT US FOR ASSISTANCE.
Jewish Tradition prescribes the placement of a matzeiva (monument) on the grave of a loved one not only as a sign of love and respect, but as part of the mitzvah of honoring the memory of the deceased and to mark the location of the burial forever. The selection of a personalized monument or its inscription becomes an opportunity to perpetuate specific memories and establish a unique tribute.
For information regarding selecting, inscribing, and arranging for an appropriate monument please visit Kehila Monuments.
It is a religious obligation to place a marker at the grave of a loved one; an unveiling (Hakamas Hamatzeivah) is a graveside religious ceremony marking the formal setting of a loved one’s monument at the cemetery. According to Jewish custom the monument may be set any time at or after the Shiva. Most American Jews hold the unveiling service close to the end of the year of mourning. Custom dictates a brief ceremony, with family and friends present.
Generally, at the gravesite before the unveiling Psalms 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, 130, and 119 are traditionally recited. This is followed by some brief words about the deceased, the actual unveiling of the stone, the Kel Maleh Rachamim (the Memorial Prayer), and the Kaddish. At the unveiling and whenever one visits a grave site there is a tradition of placing small stones on the top of the monument prior to leaving the site. One of the many meaningful reasons, that this customs continues, is to publicly demonstrate that members of the family and friends came to visit.
For more information regarding unveiling customs and procedures, contact your Rabbi and visit Kehila Monuments. If you do not have access to a Rabbi, please feel free to contact Kehila Chapels. We will refer you to a Rabbi that will meet your family’s special needs and who will try to answer your questions and advise you.
The Yahrzeit (a years time) commemorates the anniversary of the date of death on the Jewish (lunar) calendar every year. This day is observed as a time to remember. The Yahrzeit commences on the preceding day at sunset and is concluded on the anniversary day of death at sunset. During this time, Kaddish is recited in the Synagogue during services. Traditionally, a 24 hour candle is lit just before sundown when the Yahrzeit begins.
Kindly click here for a COMPLIMENTARY Yahrzeit calendar.
IF YOU NEED KADDISH TO BE SAID FOR THE YAHRZEIT OF YOUR LOVED ONE, OR TO REQUEST A COMPLIMENTARY YAHRZEIT CANDLE PLEASE CONTACT US.