DEATH, BURIAL, MOURNING, AND MEMORIAL OBSERVANCES
"Our rabbis taught that just as we bless God in our moments of joy, so too must we bless (God) in our moments of
sorrow. A mourner blesses the True Judge and recites the words from Job (1: 21), "The Lord has given and the Lord has
taken away; may the Name of the Lord be blessed."
It is interesting to note that we have seven days of rejoicing after marriage, and the Shiva, seven days of mourning.
The latter period is derived from the Bible, wherein it is described how, after Jacob died, Joseph mourned for seven days
- the period set for observing the passing of one of the seven closest relatives. When Moses died, the children of Israel
wept in the plains of Moab for thirty days, after which the days of mourning for Moses were ended. This teaches us the custom
of the SHELOSHIM: mourning for a period of thirty days after the death of certain relatives.
Having made the analogy between the joys of marriage and the sadness of death, one must neverthe less contrast the two
in broader terms. One does not look forward to death with eager anticipation, but realistically must be prepared to accept
it when its time arrives.
The deep sense of kinship, and the desire to share the joy of others in times of happiness, is now transformed into sensitivity,
acts of kindness, and a feeling for the bereaved family. Every effort is made so that mourners should feel loved and sense
the compassion others have for them in their time of sadness. The sense of togetherness that is expressed by the presence
and attention of family and friends during the Shiva, the Sheloshim, and all the special observances is a source of consolation.
Among many Sephardim, Keriah, the rending of the mourner's garment, is enacted when the members of the family return to their
home following the funeral. The "meal of condolence" (SEUDAT HABRA'AH) is provided for the mourners immediatly after
the Keriah has been accomplished. Food is prepared by members of the family or by a caterer for the entire week.
Throughout the week of Shiva, the Zohar and other texts are studied in memory of the deceased. When leaving the house
of mourners, one recites to them the words TENUHAMU MIN HA-SHAMAYIM, meaning, "May you be comforted from Heaven."
Each morning and evening during the Shiva, at the end of prayers, a HASHKABAH (memorial prayer) is recited for the deceased,
as well as for other members of the family who predeceased him or her. This brings about a sense of unity within the family
because all its departed loved ones are being recalled.
The conclusion of the Shiva in the Syrian community is marked by the ARIYAT, the "reading" which takes place
at Minhah (afternoon prayers) on the final afternoon before the Shiva is concluded. Words of eulogy are offered by the rabbi,
and this is followed by a dinner for the mourners and those present. The same ceremony is repeated on the weekend before the
Mourners go to the cemetery on the morning after the ariyat at both the conclusion of the Shivah and the conclusion of Sheloshim.
At the cemetery they recite tehillim (psalms), spelling out the name of the deceased with the Alpha Beta (Psalm 119). A widespread
Sephardic custom showing concern for mourners is demonstrated on the Sabbath during the week of Shiva. Congregants leave their
own seats and come to sit beside the mourners to show that they share in their sorrow.
The anniversary of the death of a loved one is comemorated annully by the recitation of a memorial prayer, as well as
by special Torah study sessions. In the Spanish and Portuguese tradition, the death anniversary is known as the NAHALAH. Among
Jews of Judeo-Spanish background, it is known as the MELDADO, the Judeo-Spanish term for "reading." This refers
to the fact that religious texts are read by family and friends in memory of the deceased.
As the customs outlined ... demonstrate, friendship and kinship are expressed in the life cycle in a manner that enables
each person to help share in the joys, as well as the sorrows, of his or her family and friends. A reciprocal relationship
of this nature bodes well for the well-being of the entire community, and helps bring about a balanced perspective of the
understanding of life, its joys and challenges, which are visited upon each and every one of us." - from EXPLORING SEPHARDIC
CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS, by Rabbi Marc Angel.
Mitzva of Nikhum Avelim (God desires us to Comfort Mourners)
BASIC JEWISH ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT DEATH
1) Death is a part of life. 2) There is holiness even in death. 3) One is NEVER alone in facing death. 4) Even in death
there is meaning. 5. The soul lives on after death.
QUOTE FROM THE ZOHAR
When a person's soul departs, all of the relatives and companions in the Other World join it and show it the high and
low points of the afterlife. For seven days the soul goes to and from its house to its grave, mourning for the physical body.
Seven days of mourning. No mourning on Shabbat or on holidays. Abstain from work, pleasurable activities and personal
grooming. The first three days are considered more intensive, no greetings are suggested to be offered or returned; on the
last four days a mourner may return a greeting. Traditional practices include daily prayers with community in ones home (minyan),
saying Kaddish, sitting on low stools or on the floor, covering mirrors, and the lighting of special shiva candles.
CONCLUSION OF SHIVA
Conclusion of shiva is marked by the mourners taking a walk around the block (based on outline created by Rabbi David
***SAMPLE FUNERAL SERVICES***
FOR A SAMPLE FUNERAL SERVICE, CLICK ON THE "SAMPLE FUNERAL" PAGE ON THE MENU BAR.
A funeral should be a service that has the participation of family members and friends; utilizes favorite music, readings
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill will conduct a meaningful and compassionate
funeral service for the deceased and those who are mourners; family and friends.
Rabbi Gershon will use any format
that the family of the deceased desires, EXCEPT a format that expresses belief on the Rabbi's part in a faith path not based
in Judaism. Samples will be found posted below that are based upon Traditional Orthodox Jewish (Ashkenazi and Sephardic),
Conservative, Reform, and Renewal funeral traditions.
Rabbi Gershon is willing to co-officiate with Christian, Moslem
and other clergy.
Rabbi Gershon is also willing and able to conduct secular and non-religious funerals.
Gershon can help the family with planning a meaningful funeral worthy of expressing the love and depth of loss.