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Jewish Understanding of Death

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  1. Jewish Understanding of Death Thumperand lovely lilah

  2. Understanding of death • The afterlife is a fundamental belief of Judaism. • Death is a birth from the womb of earthly life into the new life of the afterlife. • In death Jews meet their own personal Messiah. • Jews believe in the resurrection of the body on a “great and awesome day of the Lord.”

  3. Understanding of death cont. • Therefore, cremation is frowned upon because it is seen as a denial of the resurrection and of God’s power. • The meaning of death depends on what you make of your life or what you believe about your life

  4. The Moment of Death • During the last minute of life it is customary that one should not leave the room out of respect to the dying person • The confession recited before death is “Understand O Israel, the Lord our God is One. Acknowledge before Thee, My God, God of My Fathers, that my recovery and my death are in Your hands. May it be your will to heal me completely, but if I should die, may my death be atonement for all sins that I have committed.”

  5. The Moment of Death Cont. • On witnessing or hearing of a death, one should say the following prayer, called Berakhah • “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, the true Judge.” • At the moment of death the immediate relatives should perform the traditional Jewish act of mourning and grief, K’riah: the tearing of a garment.

  6. The moment of death cont. • In the house of mourning “mirrors should be covered to de-emphasize the beauty and ornamentation of the flesh at a time when another person’s body has begun to decay.” • In accordance with the highest degree of respect for the deceased, the body may not be left alone from the moment of death until burial. The family should make arrangements for someone to be at the side of the deceased at all time, saying psalms.

  7. The K’riah • Must occur immediately before the chapel service as well as at the time of receiving the news of the death • A cut is made in the garment with a knife, and then the tear is expanded by hand • All immediate family must perform the K’riah on the right side of the garment, parents of the deceased on the left

  8. Preparation for burial • Buried in a white shroud with no pockets • A prayer shawl is draped over the body after one of the fringes is cut off, symbolizing that person is no longer bound by the Jewish law. • The coffin should only have the body in it with the exception of dirt from Israel. • Holes are cut into the bottom of the coffin for faster decomposition

  9. The funeral • Takes place within 24 hours after the moment of death, though it is possible to wait a bit longer for relatives to arrive • Viewing the deceased is not a Jewish custom, and Jewish tradition teaches us that it is disrespectful to look at a person who can not look back. • A traditional funeral would be one in which the casket is kept closed and there is no viewing, except for purposes of identification by the family, if they so desire.

  10. The funeral • Tradition calls for a simple wooden casket, made without metal parts. • Most traditional funerals do not have flowers as this is considered an unnecessary and frivolous adornment. • Most rabbis do not object to the family's wish to have a small floral tribute on the casket, but don't want Jewish funerals to resemble the funeral customs of non-Jews in having the casket surrounded by flowers.

  11. The funeral • Funerals usually last about twenty minutes and consist of the recitation of Psalms, Scripture readings and a eulogy. • No eulogy is read for someone who committed suicide • There are to be no non-Jewish pallbearers • Job 1: 21 is always read

  12. The burial • Mourners accompany the deceased to their final resting place. The tradition is that the Kaddish prayer is not recited until after the casket has been lowered, and the grave filled. • The ChesedShelEmet, the ultimate act of love and kindness, is shown to the deceased when the mourners and friends participate in the actual burial.

  13. The burial • Many people symbolically participate by placing a few shovels of earth onto the casket or vault. • Participating and witnessing in the burial gives closure to the relationship and affords the mourners an opportunity to do something physical for their loved one for a final time. • This also helps to minimize any illusions that the death might not have been real.

  14. The burial cont. • After the burial, upon leaving the grave, it is traditional for those in attendance who are not mourners to form a Shura, a double line facing each other, forming a pathway through which the mourners pass to receive words of comfort. • Any kind words of sympathy may be said to the mourners as they pass through the double line.

  15. The burial cont. • The body must be placed underground, not interred into a traditional mausoleum, where bodies are essentially kept in a drawer • Bodies can still be put in a mausoleum but must be put underground

  16. After burial • One of the oldest, most important, and meaningful traditions the Jewish people have is that upon returning to the house of mourning following the burial, the community provides the first meal. • Eggs or bagels are traditionally served to symbolize the continuity of life. • This meal of condolence, called the SeudatHawra'ah was begun in recognition that if left to the mourners' own wills, they may not eat and would then become ill.

  17. The first period of mourning • Shiva means seven and is the period of mourning immediately following the burial. • Tradition is that the day of burial counts as the first day of Shiva, which continues for seven days. • Although no public mourning is observed on Shabbat, the Sabbath and holidays count in the seven days.

  18. THE FIRST PERIOD OF MOURNING CONT. • During Shiva, mourners remain at home and the Jewish community comes and offers comfort to them. • The only time a mourner is supposed to leave the home is on Shabbat to attend services in the synagogue. • During the Shiva period the community comes into the mourner's home and it is there that the three daily (morning, afternoon and evening) services are held.

  19. THE FIRST PERIOD OF MOURNING CONT. • The atmosphere in the house of mourning should be one of dignity, and one should avoid creating a party atmosphere during Shiva. • Shiva should be a time to remember with fondness many of the events of which the deceased was a part. • Out of our discomfort we avoid talking about the memories we have of the deceased.

  20. The second period of mourning • Shloshim, which means thirty in Hebrew, is the thirty days following the burial, with the day of the burial counting as the first day. • Serves as a period of re-entry into the world of the living for the mourner. • This is the time when the mourner returns to work or school and begins to start living without their loved one.

  21. The second period of mourning • During Shloshim, the mourner traditionally avoids music, gaiety and other forms of celebrations. • This is similar to the restrictions during Shiva, but the Sholshimrestrictions are less strict.

  22. The Third period of mourning • The mourner only partakes in the third period if they have lost a parent. • The mourning process in this period consists of saying the Kaddish prayer daily in remembrance of the deceased. • Most of the restrictions are lifted, but the mourner may still not actively seek amusement, especially not music.

  23. The afterlife • Heaven - Olam Ha-Ba or the Garden of Eden • Instead of “Heaven,” Jews believe our souls return to the Garden of Eden • Souls remain there, in the perfect state of Adam and Eve before Original Sin, until the Resurrection • However, very few souls go straight to Olam Ha-Ba

  24. The afterlife cont. • Hell – Gehinnom • Much our Catholic belief of Hell, Gehinnomis typically viewed as a place of fire, brimstone, and suffering • Most souls are sent to Gehinnom, but only for a 12-month period of purification • This is reflected in the one-year mourning cycle and the recitation of the Kaddishprayer