Jewish Funeral and Burial
The deceased live on in spirit— in the hearts and minds of their loved ones.
Expect to gather in a small room with your family and the Rabbi prior to the funeral service. This is when the tearing of the garment (keryah), or a symbolic black ribbon, occurs. A benediction is recited reaffirming our faith in God, recognizing the worthiness of life and revering God as the final judge of all mankind. The rendering is an expression of grief, allowing mourners to express anguish and anger by means of an act of destruction made sacred by Jewish tradition. For a deceased parent the ribbon is worn on the left side, closest to the heart. For all others, it is worn on the right. The ribbon serves as an outward sign of grief and mourning and an acceptance of death.
A Jewish funeral (Levayah) requires community involvement and it is considered a mitzvah (act of kindness) to attend. It can be held at graveside, in a funeral home or synagogue. The service should be brief and simple, as its purpose is to honor the deceased and to allow friends and relatives an opportunity to support mourners with their presence. There is no set format but the funeral service usually includes a selection from the Book of Psalms, eulogies and chanting of the El Malei Rachamim prayer.
At the graveside, a prayer (Tzidduk Hadin) which is an acceptance of God’s judgment, is usually recited. Then the Rabbi may say a few closing words, followed by the recitation of El Malei Rachamim and the Mourner’s Kaddish prayers.
As difficult as this may seem. Jewish tradition calls for the family to put the first shovels of dirt on the casket, using the back of the shovel to show their reluctance to perform this task. It is a great mitzvah (act of kindness) for family and friends to shovel earth to cover the casket, as it is the last physical act that we can perform for a loved one, expecting nothing in return.
After the burial, the focus shifts to comforting the mourners. Two lines are formed through which the mourners pass as those present recite the following traditional words of comfort:
"May God comfort you in your sorrow among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem"