Jewish Funeral Etiquette
Jewish funeral etiquette is as rich as the Jewish traditions.
a time of profound significance to the family and friends of the
Basic funeral etiquette is universal. It is a time of solemnity and grieving.
It is also a time of celebration
and remembering. This is the time when the family and
friends can share in memories and love for the one they have lost.
Jewish customs are rich and involved with every aspect of
life. As one who is attending a Jewish funeral, becoming familiar with these
customs will enable you to understand what their ritual
Jewish Funeral Customs
body is watched over from the time of death to the time of burial. This
is usually done by a family member who recites psalms during this time.
preparing of the body for burial. During this the body is washed
thoroughly with warm water. As it is washed it is never placed face
down. The body is prepared by members of a sacred burial society with
men preparing men and women preparing women. Prayers and psalms are
recited throughout this process.
body is dressed in a white, simple shroud for burial. The reason behind
this is to eliminate any distinction between rich and poor. Men are
buried wearing a prayer shawl with one of the fringes has been removed.
This renders the shawl unusable.
casket is simple, made from wood only. It is not to have any metal
parts. There are several holes drilled in the bottom so that the body
may return to the dust.
a symbol of anguish and grief, this is the rending of the outer
garments. Mourners have traditionally rent their outer garments during
Jewish Funeral Etiquette
In the Jewish
culture, there are three parts to a funeral. Understanding the
etiquette for funerals in this tradition will enable you to respect and
mourn with the family and friends of the deceased. The parts are: the
funeral, the burial and the Sitting Shiva.
traditional Jewish funeral is held within 48 hours from the time of
death. They are usually held in a funeral home. In accordance to Jewish
custom, there is no viewing as the casket is closed. During the
funeral, the rabbi will speak, prayers will be offered (usually in
Hebrew) and family members may offer eulogies.
As a friend or family member, Jewish funeral etiquette is shown when
you have reverence for
Even if you do not understand all that is said and done, be respectful
and maintain quiet dignity throughout the service. Wearing dark,
conservative clothing is very appropriate. Do not wear open-toed shoes
or anything of a casual nature.
The graveside ceremony is reserved
for the family of the deceased
If you are invited attend this part of the funeral, you may be asked to
take part in the filling of the grave. This is done by filling the
grave with three shovels of dirt. Cultural etiquette is shown by always
pointing the shovel down and replacing it into the dirt when you are
done. Do not hand the shovel to someone else. This is all symbolic to
the Jewish traditions.
The Sitting Shiva
This is when the
community comes to pay their respects to the family. It is usually held
during the week following the funeral and burial. Jewish funeral
tradition states that during a shiva call it is appropriate to share a story or memory
the person. Doing so will help keep their loved one close and alive in
their hearts. However, there are times when silence is best. The family
is mostly appreciative of having you there.
When making a shival call, do
not bring flowers
It is not appropriate for Jewish funerals. It is appropriate, however,
to bring kosher food for the family. During their time of mourning,
they should not be burdened with preparing of food. Hot foods are the
best, however any prepared food will be appropriate.
Also, in many cases the family will have chosen a charity for financial
donations. This is a
wonderful way to pay your respects to the family
Please respect the family during this time of mourning and dress conservatively
when calling upon them. This shows good manners.
Visiting the Grave
visiting a Jewish grave you will notice that they are buried without a
headstone. The headstone, usually very simple and plain, is added at a
later date. As you visit, it is custom to place a rock on the
headstone. You may also leave a note under the rock. This shows that
the grave has been visited. Again, flowers are not appropriate in
Jewish funeral etiquette.
Understanding Jewish customs is a beautiful way to show
your love and respect for the family of the deceased. The richness and
beauty of their traditions is woven into every aspect of their live.
What we have shared here is but a glimpse into Jewish funeral
etiquette. We hope that
it will help you express your grief with those you love.