Jewish Funeral Terms
A Jewish funeral sets itself apart from the funerals of other traditions in that they are viewed as an interactive event, where the community comes together to bury their loved one, both figuratively and literally.
Taharah is the ritual cleansing of a body in preparation for burial. It is a sacred act that is performed by a group of specially trained Jews called the Chevra Kadisha, or "Holy Society." The Chevra Kadisha is made up of both men and women, and they are responsible for preparing the body for burial. The Taharah process begins with the removal of all clothing from the body. The body is then washed with warm water and soap. The body is then dried and dressed in a simple white shroud called tachrichim. During the Taharah process, the Chevra Kadisha recites prayers and psalms. They also make sure that the body is treated with respect and dignity. The Taharah process is a way for the Jewish community to show their love and respect for the deceased, and to prepare them for their journey to the afterlife.
Shmira and Shomer are both terms used in Judaism to refer to the act of guarding the body of a deceased person. The word "shmira" comes from the Hebrew word for "guarding," and the word "shomer" is the masculine form of the word.
In traditional Judaism, it is believed that the soul of the deceased remains close to the body for a period of time after death. The purpose of shmira is to provide comfort and support to the soul of the deceased, and to protect the body from desecration.
The shomer is typically a volunteer who sits with the body of the deceased for the entire time between death and burial. The shomer may recite prayers, meditate, or simply sit quietly with the body. The shomer is also responsible for ensuring that the body is not disturbed or desecrated.
Shmira is considered to be a mitzvah, or a good deed, in Judaism. It is a way to show respect for the deceased and to help them on their journey to the afterlife.
Jewish tradition is rich with funeral customs, accrued over the entirety of Jewish history. These customs dictate how a body should be prepared, burial procedures, who is considered a mourner, a mourner’s responsibilities, and a host of other details.
Funeral arrangements are the choices made for every aspect of the funeral service. This is a conversation with our funeral director where he will describe all of the choices and make sure everyone understands their meaning and significance.
A Jewish funeral can be held in a chapel or sanctuary. This means that all religious prayers, eulogies, and funeral rights are completed in the chapel before making the journey to the cemetery for the burial. Before a chapel service begins, mourners may greet family and friends who are attending the service, have some final private moments, and meet with clergy.
A Jewish funeral can be held at the location of the grave in the cemetery, known as a “Graveside Service”. This means that all religious prayers, eulogies, and funeral rights are completed at the cemetery and the burial service takes place immediately. Before a Graveside Service, mourners may greet family and friends at the office of the cemetery, have some final private moments, and meet with clergy.
The Jewish burial service is an essential part of the overall funeral service. Religious tradition holds that a soul can not return to heaven until the body it inhabited has been laid to rest, and, the casket fully covered with earth. Until then it remains in a state of limbo. Therefore, as a service to the deceased’s soul, funeral burials are held as quickly after death as possible.
The Bible and Jewish tradition are clearly and consistently pro-burial and anti-cremation, considering the burning of the body a terrible violation of the person’s memory and God’s image. The fact that cremation is being chosen by more families today than in the past, Jerusalem Memorial Chapels will provide the service should families request it. It is our responsibility as a Jewish owned and operated funeral home to make sure that those families requesting it are not doing so based upon common misconceptions and inaccurate information regarding its supposed ecological and environmental benefits and/or its financial savings.
Mourning, as a Jewish tradition is highly ritualized, and has evolved over centuries as a method of helping the immediate mourners heal. This process is important because as much as we want to remember those we’ve lost, we also eventually need to give ourselves permission to move forward.