The Jewish Way of Mourning

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The Jewish way of mourning provides us a way to face our grief while at the same time help those who are grieving. The Jewish mourning tradition is based on two principles: Kavod Hamet (paying respect to the deceased) and Nichum Avelim (giving comfort to the mourners).

  • The body of the deceased should be treated with utmost respect. There are three stages in the preparation of the body for burial: rechitzah (washing), taharah, (ritual purification), halbashah (dressing).
  • Traditionally, embalming, cremation, and conducting autopsies are seen as dishonoring the deceased and are forbidden in Judaism.
  • Appoint a shomer who will be assigned to watch over the body until the completion of the burial.
  • The funeral should take place no more than two nights after the death.
  • Simple wood coffins are used for the burial as it is believed that as the body decays, the soul ascends to heaven. This is also a symbol that both the rich and poor are equal in the eyes of God.
  • Kriah or the ritual tearing of the garment is done by a Rabbi. The shirt or blouse of seven mourners, usually the closest family members, is pulled apart.
  • The funeral service starts with the deceased’s son reciting Mourner’s Kaddish.
  • The burial service includes recitation of psalms, the memorial prayer, Kaddish, Tziduk Hadin, and singing of El Malay Rachamim.
  • Relatives and friends visit the mourners during Shiva week. It is customary to bring sweet foods or desserts, such as fruits and pastries.
  • During shloshim (30 days after burial), the mourner is not allowed to marry or to attend festive events (seudat mitzvah). They are also prohibited to shave or cut their hair.
  • Sons and daughters should recite Kaddish for 11 months following the death of their loved one.
  • A yahrztzeit candle is lit for 24 hours at sundown during the night of Yahrtzeit or death anniversary of the deceased.
  • The Kaddish is recited at prayer services in the synagogue, evening of Yahrztzeit, and morning and afternoon prayer services the following day.

AllJewishLinks.com recommends Mourner’s KaddishBands which were created to help with the passing of a family member, friend, or loved one, consistent with the recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish.

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