Large Enough to Serve You
Small Enough to Know You

Guide to Burial & Mourning

Introduction

” ‘What person shall live and not see death?’ (Ps. 89:49)
The Psalmist reflects the understanding that death is part of the fate of every human being, the fate of each of us. We should never try to deny death. It is futile to attempt to hide from death, and it is damaging to seek refuge in the various bizarre, dehumanizing, irrational and escapist trappings…”
Rabbi Jules Harlow (The Bond of Life)

The Jewish way in life has been referred to as “The Way of Confrontation.” Jews neither partake of life’s gifts in a limitless fashion, nor do Jews totally abstain from any of them. When Jews partake and recognize God’s blessings, Jews sanctify that moment.

The Jewish way in death is also “The Way of Confrontation.” Jews find no meaning in worshipping the dead, but sense no healing in the absence of grief. When Jews face death in a realistic manner, God grants the strength to eventually overcome the loss.

Jewish tradition teaches that the deceased should be treated with utmost respect. To participate in the burial process is to perform a Chesed Shel-Emet*, an act of true kindness which the deceased can never repay. Burial preparations and the mourning practices also encourage loved ones to confront their loss.

These pages outlines the Jewish way in death and mourning. The ultimate goal of Jewish burial and bereavement practices is to aid in the reparative process of mourning. An important means to that end is to treat the dead with the utmost respect, referred to as Kevod Hamet*. We hope you will understand the practices outlined in this booklet in that context. If at any time you have a question or require clarification, please contact the Rabbi or a member of the Beth Torah Cemetery Committee.

References
  • The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Maurice Lamm
  • A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice by Isaac Klein

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