Judaism – Funeral

Death and funeral – statement 

We are all alike in front of death. That is why all jews are buried in a simple coffin of same kind. the deceased is being washed and wrapped in a white shroud by the members in the Chevra Kadisha, which  is a loosely structured but generally closed organization of jewish men and women who see to it that the bodies of Jews are prepared for burial according to Halacha (Jewish law) and are protected from desecration, willful or not, until burial.  Two of the main requirements are the showing of proper respect for a corpse, and the ritual cleansing of the body and subsequent dressing for burial.

 

The task of the chevra kadisha is considered a laudable one, as tending to the dead is a favour that the recipient cannot return, making it devoid of ulterior motives. Its work is therefore referred to as a chesed shel emet (a good deed of truth), paraphrased from Genesis 47:29  (where Jacob asks his son Joseph, “do me a ‘true’ favor” and Joseph promises his father to bury him in the Land of Isreal.

The ritual of Tahara, or purification. The body is first thoroughly cleansed of dirt, body fluids and solids, and anything else that may be on the skin, and then it is ritually purified by immersion in, or a continuous flow of, water from the head over the entire body. Tahara may refer to either the entire process, or to the ritual purification. Once the body is purified, the body is dressed in Tachrichim, or shrouds, of white pure cotton garments made up of ten pieces for a male and twelve for a female, which are identical for each Jew and which symbolically recalls the garments worn by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). Once the body is dressed, the casket is sealed. When being buried in Israel, however, a casket is not used.

The society may also provide shomrim, or watchers, to guard the body from theft, rodents, or desecration until burial. In some communities this is done by people close to the departed or by paid shomrim hired by the funeral home. At one time, the danger of theft of the body was very real, yet in modern times it has become a way of honoring the deceased.

Meit mitzvah (a mitzvah corpse),  is tending to the dead who have no immediate next-of-kin. as tending to a meit mitzvah overrides virtually any other positive commandment (mitzvot aseh) of Torah law.

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