Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jewish Services

So, I don't know how many of my reader friends are Jewish, or even have many Jews in their community, but this past month I've had two Jewish funerals, and let me tell you: they are not easy.

So, Jews, Orthodox Jews in particular, have rules about burial, like, not just traditions, but rules.  When one dies, the interment (burial) must be within 24 hours (as long as that's possible), not counting the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) on which it is forbidden to do work pertaining to the funeral arrangements.  This can be a bit hectic, especially when the deceased's doctor isn't Jewish, as they don't always cooperate with the funeral home in how quickly they do the death certificate paperwork (which is necessary for burial to take place).  The evening before burial (the day of the death) the body must be bathed and shrouded, then placed in an Orthodox casket, called an Aron, which is always a wooden casket with no metal or animal-based glues, and usually has holes in the bottom (to aid in decomposition of the remains) and a Star of David on the lid.

So, the bathing ritual takes place in the embalming room, so I have to make sure it's extra clean, and I have to take down the crucifix that I always have hanging above the sink, and get out protective gowns, shoe covers, gloves, etc. for the people to wear that come in to do the bathing.  The ceremony is done by four members of the Synegauge that are of the same sex as the deceased, and I have never watched it, I feel out of place when they start chanting in Hebrew, but I do pop my head in every once in a while to make sure they don't need anything.  It takes about three hours, and when the bathing/praying/shrouding is done we all put the deceased in the Aron.  There are candles that get light when the bathing ceremony is taking place, ones that look a lot like the Catholic ones, but instead of Jesus they are decorated with a Star of David and words in Hebrew.  THe candle is to stay with the remains before they are buried, lit the whole time, and then after the burial they are taken by the surving family members and burned for another 6 days at home.

At the time of the death (if the Rabbi is there) the Rabbi tears the clothing of the family members.  The clothing is then worn for a week to remind the family to grieve.  If family members weren't present at the death their clothing is torn at the graveside.

The attendees at the burial all help shovel the earth into the plot once the Aron is lowered into the ground, and that's it.

It doesn't seem like as much work as it really was, rereading the post, but I promise, it was stressful.

4 comments:

Miss Anne said...

All of the different traditions are so fascinating.

What a humbling experience.

Ivan Toblog said...

I read a traditional Jewish funeral blessing at my stepfather's memorial service and my undershirt was torn.
Does that make me Jewish?

Doll Face said...

IT- Totally.

BTW, you in town for Thanksgiving?

Ivan Toblog said...

Is it kosher?
Then I'm in.