1 putting on display for the first time; "he attended the unveiling of the statue"
2 the act of beginning something new; "they looked forward to the debut of their new product line" [syn: introduction, debut, first appearance, launching, entry]
- A ceremony for the first public showing of something.
- Present participle of to unveil.
Bereavement in Judaism () is a combination of minhag (traditional custom) and mitzvot (good deeds or religious obligation) derived from Judaism's classical Torah and rabbinic texts. The details of observance and practice vary according to each Jewish community.
Upon receiving news of the passingUpon receiving the news of the passing, the following blessing is recited:
- Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam, dayan ha-emet.
- Translation: "Blessed are You, , our God, King of the universe, the True Judge."
There is also a custom of rending one's clothes at the moment one hears news of a passing. Orthodox men will cut the lapel of their suit on the left side, over the heart. Non-orthodox practice may be to cut a necktie or to wear a button with a torn black ribbon.
Chevra kadishaThe chevra kadisha (חברה קדישא "holy group") is a Jewish burial society usually consisting of volunteers, men and women, who prepare the deceased for proper Jewish burial. Their job is to ensure that the body of the deceased is shown proper respect, ritually cleansed and dressed in shrouds.
Many local chevra kadishas in urban areas are affiliated with local synagogues, and they often own their own burial plots in various local cemeteries. Some Jews pay an annual token membership fee to the chevra kadisha of their choice, so that when the time comes, the society will not only attend to the body of the deceased as befits Jewish law, but will also ensure burial in a plot that it controls at an appropriate nearby Jewish cemetery.
If no gravediggers are available, then it is additionally the function of the male society members to ensure that graves are dug. In Israel, members of chevra kadishas consider it an honor to not only to prepare the body for burial but also to dig the grave for a fellow Jew's body, particularly if the deceased was known to be a righteous person.
Many burial societies hold one or two annual fast days and organize regular study sessions to remain up to date with the relevant articles of Jewish law. In addition, most burial societies also support families during the shiva (traditional week of mourning) by arranging prayer services, preparing meals, and providing other services for the mourners.
Preparing the body — TaharahThere are three major stages to preparing the body for burial: washing (rechitzah), ritual purification (taharah), and dressing (halbashah). The term taharah is used to refer both to the overall process of burial preparation, and to the specific step of ritual purification.
The general sequence of steps for performing taharah is as follows. Blessings, prayers, and readings from Torah, Psalmshia there and other Jewish scripture may be recited at several points:
- The body (guf) is uncovered. (It has been covered with a sheet awaiting taharah.)
- The body is washed carefully. As all blood must be buried along with the deceased, any open bleeding is stopped. The body is thoroughly cleaned of dirt, body fluids and solids, and anything else that may be on the skin. All jewelry is removed.
- The body is purified with water, either by immersion in a mikvah or by pouring a continuous stream in a prescribed manner.
- The body is dried (according to most customs).
- The body is dressed in traditional burial clothing (tachrichim). A sash (avnet) is wrapped around the clothing and tied in the form of the Hebrew letter "shin," representing one of the names of God.
- The coffin (aron) (if there is a coffin) is prepared by removing any linings or other embellishments. A sheet (sovev) is laid into the coffin. Outside the Land of Israel, if the person wore a prayer shawl (tallit) during their life, one is laid in the coffin for wrapping the body once it is placed there. One of the corner fringes (tzitzit) is removed from the shawl to signify that it will no longer be used for prayer in life.
- The body is then lifted into the coffin and wrapped in the prayer shawl and sheet. Soil from Israel (afar), if available, is placed over various parts of the body and sprinkled in the coffin.
- The coffin is closed.
Once the body is dressed, the coffin is sealed. Unlike other religions, in Judaism there is no viewing of the body and no "open casket" at the funeral, though the immediate family is allowed a visitation right prior to the coffin being sealed to pay their final respects. In Israel caskets are not used at all, with the exception of military and state funerals. The body is carried to the grave wrapped in a tallit.
Once the coffin is closed, the chevra then asks for forgiveness from the deceased for anything that they may have done to offend them or not show proper respect during the taharah. If the body is not taken immediately for burial, guards or watchers (shomrim) sit with the coffin until it is taken for burial. It is traditional to recite Psalms during this time.
Funeral serviceIn Israel the Jewish funeral service will usually commence at the burial ground. In the United States and Canada, the funeral service will usually commence at a funeral home (and occasionally a synagogue or temple) for an ordinary Jew, and from there the mourners and their entourage proceed to a Jewish cemetery for the burial. In the case of a more prominent person, such as a well-known communal leader, rabbi, rebbe, or rosh yeshiva, the entire service with eulogies can be held at the synagogue or yeshiva that the deceased was affiliated with.
EulogiesA hesped is a eulogy, and it is common that several people speak at the start of the ceremony at the funeral home, as well as prior to burial at the gravesite, though some people specify in their wills that nothing should be said about them. On certain days, such as on Chol HaMo'ed ("intermediate days" of Jewish holidays), eulogies are forbidden.
BurialKevura, or burial, should take place as soon as possible after death. The Torah requires burial as soon as possible, even for executed criminals . This means that burial will usually take place on the same day as death, or, if not possible, the next day. Some Reform and other congregations delay burial to allow more time for far flung family to come to the funeral and participate in the other post burial rituals.
This custom may have originated from the fact that Israel was, and is, a country with a hot climate. In Biblical times, there were few ways of keeping the dead body from decomposing. Not only would this be generally undesirable, but allowing the dead body of any person to decompose would be showing that person great disrespect. Decomposition would have occurred especially quickly in Israel due to the constant heat. Thus, the custom of burying the body as soon as possible. (Although the practice of embalming and mummification had advanced to a high level in Egypt, this, too, is considered disrespectful, since it involves a great deal of manipulation and the removal of bodily organs.) In addition, respect for the dead can be seen from many examples in the Torah and Tanakh. For example, one of the last events in the Torah is the death of Moses when God himself buries him: "[God] buried him in the depression in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor. No man knows the place that he was buried, even to this day." (Deuteronomy 34:6)
Typically, when the funeral service has ended, the mourners come forward to fill the grave. Symbolically, this gives the mourners closure as they observe the grave being filled in. One custom is for people present at the funeral to take a spade or shovel, held pointing down instead of up, to show the antithesis of death to life and that this use of the shovel is different from all other uses, to throw three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave. When someone is finished, they put the shovel back in the ground, rather than handing it to the next person, so that they shouldn't pass along their grief.
While the grave is being filled in, some Jews may throw in a handful of earth from Israel on the dead body.
Keriah and shivaThe mourners traditionally make a tear (keriah קריעה) in an outer garment either before the funeral or immediately after it. The tear should be on the left side for a parent (over the heart and clearly visible) and on the right side for brothers, sisters, children and spouses (and does not need to be visible).
If a son or daughter of the deceased needs to change clothes during the shiva period, he or she must tear the changed clothes. No other family member is required to rend changed clothes during shiva. Neither son nor daughter may ever sew the rent clothes, but any other mourner may mend the clothing 30 days after the burial. http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=281558
When they get home, the mourners do not shower or bathe for a week, do not wear leather shoes and/or jewelry, men do not shave, and in many communities large wall mirrors in the mourners' home are covered. It is customary for the mourners to sit on low stools or even the floor, symbolic of the emotional reality of being "brought low" by the grief. The meal of consolation (seudat havra'ah), the first meal eaten on returning from the funeral, traditionally consists of hard boiled eggs and other round or oblong foods. This is often credited to the Biblical story of Jacob purchasing the birthright from Esau with stewed lentils; it is traditionally stated that Jacob was cooking the lentils soon after the death of his grandfather, Abraham.
During this time distant family and friends come to visit or call the mourners to comfort them via "shiva calls".
Commencing and calculating the seven days of mourningIf the mourner returns from the cemetery after the burial before sundown then the day of the funeral is counted as the first of the seven days of mourning. Mourning generally concludes in the morning of the seventh day. No mourning may occur on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), nor may the burial take place on Shabbat, but the day of Shabbat does count as one of the seven days. If a Jewish holiday occurs after the first day, that curtails the mourning period. If the funeral occurs during a festival, the start of the mourning period awaits the end of the festival. Some holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, cancel the mourning period completely.
Stages of mourning
AninutThe first stage of mourning is aninut, or "[intense] mourning." An onen (a person in aninut) is considered to be in a state of total shock and disorientation. Thus the onen is exempt from performing mitzvot that require action (and attention), such as praying and reciting blessings, wearing tefillin (phylacteries), in order to be able to tend unhindered to the funeral arrangements.
Aninut lasts until the burial is over, or, if a mourner unable to attend the funeral, from the moment he is no longer involved with the funeral itself.
AvelutAninut is immediately followed by avelut ("mourning"). An avel ("mourner") does not listen to music or go to concerts, and does not attend any joyous events or parties such as marriages or Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, unless absolutely necessary. (If the date for such an event has already been set prior to the death, it is strictly forbidden for it to be postponed or canceled.)
Avelut consists of three distinct periods.
Shiva – Seven daysThe first stage of avelut is shiva (), a week-long period of grief and mourning. Observance of shiva is referred to by English-speaking Jews as "sitting shiva". During this period, mourners traditionally gather in one home and receive visitors.
It is considered a great mitzvah (commandment) of kindness and compassion to pay a home visit to the mourners. Traditionally, no greetings are exchanged and visitors wait for the mourners to initiate conversation. The mourner is under no obligation to engage in conversation and may, in fact, completely ignore his visitors.
There are various customs as to what to say when taking leave of the mourner(s). One of the most common is to say to them:
- המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שער אבילי ציון וירושלים
- Hamakom y'nachem etkhem b'tokh sha'ar avelei tziyon viyrushalayim:
Depending on their community's customs, others may also add such wishes as: "You should have no more tza'ar ('pain')" or "You should have only simchas ('celebrations')" or "we should hear only good news (besorot tovot) from each other" or "I wish you long life".
Traditionally, prayer services are organised in the house of mourning. It is customary for the family to lead the services themselves.
Shloshim – Thirty daysThe thirty-day period following the death (including shiva) is known as shloshim (). During shloshim, a mourner is forbidden to marry or to attend a seudat mitzvah ("religious festive meal"). Men do not shave or get haircuts during this time.
Since Judaism teaches that a deceased person can still benefit from the merit of mitzvot (deeds commanded by God) done in their memory, it is considered a special privilege to bring merit to the departed by learning Torah in their name. A popular custom is to coordinate a group of people who will jointly study the complete Mishnah during the shloshim period.
Shneim asar chodesh – Twelve monthsThose mourning a parent additionally observe a twelve-month period (), counted from the day of death. During this period, most activity returns to normal, although the mourners continue to recite the mourner's kaddish as part of synagogue services for eleven months, and there remain restrictions on attending festive occasions and large gatherings, especially where live music is played.
Matzevah (Unveiling of the tombstone)A headstone (tombstone) is known as a matzevah ("monument"). Although there is no Halakhic obligation to hold an unveiling ceremony, the ritual became popular in many communities toward the end of the 19th century. There are varying customs about when it should be placed on the grave. Most communities have an unveiling ceremony a year after the death. Some communities have it earlier, even a week after the burial. In Israel it is done after the "sheloshim", the first thirty days of mourning. There is no restriction about the timing, other than the unveiling cannot be held during certain periods such as Passover or Chol Ha'Moed.
At the end of the ceremony, a cloth or shroud covering that has been placed on the headstone is removed, customarily by close family members. Services include reading of several psalms (1, 24, 23, 103), Mourners Kaddish (if a minyan is available), and the prayer "El Malei Rachamim." The service may include a brief eulogy for the deceased.
Yahrtzeit, NahalaYahrtzeit, יאָרצײַט, means "Time (of) Year" in Yiddish http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=139&letter=J. (Alternative spellings include yortsayt (using the YIVO standard Yiddish orthography), Yohr Tzeit, yahrzeit, and yartzeit.) The word is also used by non-Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, and refers to the annual anniversary of the day of death of a relative. Yahrtzeit literally means "time of [one] year".
The commemoration is known in Ladino as nahala. It is widely observed, and based on the Jewish tradition that mourners are required to commemorate the death of a relative.
Mourners required to fulfill this observance are the children, siblings, spouses and parents of the deceased. The custom is first discussed in detail in Sefer HaMinhagim (pub. 1566) by Rabbi Isaac Tyrnau.
The Yahrtzeit falls annually on the Hebrew date of the deceased relative's death according to the Hebrew calendar.
The main halakhic obligation is to recite the mourner's version of the Kaddish prayer three times (evening, morning, and afternoon), and many attend synagogue for the evening, morning, and afternoon services on this day. (During the morning prayer service the mourner's Kaddish is recited at least four times.) As a widely practiced custom, mourners also light a special candle that burns for 24 hours, called a "Yahrzeit candle".
Lighting a yahrtzeit candle in memory of a loved one is a minhag ("custom") that is deeply ingrained in Jewish life honoring the memory and souls of the deceased.
Strict Jewish law requires that one should fast on the day of a parent's Yahrzeit, although this is not required, some people do observe the custom of fasting on the day of the Yahrtzeit. Among many Orthodox Jews it has become customary to make a siyum by completing a tractate of Talmud or a volume of the Mishnah on the day prior to the Yahrtzeit, in the honor of the deceased. A halakha requiring a siyum ("celebratory meal"), upon the completion of such a study, overrides the requirement to fast.
Jewish mourners are required to commemorate the death of a first-relative: mother, father, brother, or sister. The main halakhic obligation is to recite the mourner's version of the Kaddish prayer at least three times, Maariv at the evening services, Shacharit at morning services, and Mincha at the afternoon services.
Many synagogues will have lights on a special memorial plaque on one of the synagogue's walls, with names of synagogue members who have died. Each of these lights will be lit for individuals on their Yahrzeit, and all the lights will be lit for a Yizkor service. Some synagogues will also turn on all the lights for memorial days, such as Yom Ha'Shoah. Most people say it the day after they died.
Visiting the gravesite
- Web portal on Death, Mourning and Hope in Jewish Tradition & Practice
- The Stages of Jewish Mourning
- Jewish Encyclopedia article on Mourning
- The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning By Maurice Lamm
- Orthodox, Conservative and Reform perspectives from Mazornet.com
- Yahrtzeit Calculator
unveiling in Czech: Židovský způsob pohřbívání
unveiling in French: Deuil dans le judaïsme
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