When a loved one passes away, it’s appropriate to honor their religious traditions for burial. Traditional Jewish funerals include practices steeped in history. If someone you lost has a traditional family, you may wonder what to expect from the funeral service. In the guide below, learn more about the customs surrounding headstones, flower arrangements, and other conventions to prepare for the service.
A Brief Guide to Jewish Funerals & Traditions
Should I bring flowers to the funeral?
While flower arrangements are customary in most funerals, they are not generally part of a Jewish bereavement. Traditional families avoid adorning caskets and grave sites for the sake of simplicity.
Mourners often prefer that guests spend time with the family instead of sending flowers. If you can’t attend the service, ask about donating to a charity. You can also send food, since Jewish mourning periods require grievers to abstain from cooking.
Are all Jewish funerals closed-casket?
Jewish tradition forbids seeing the face of a dead person to preserve the deceased’s honor. Instead, mourners are encouraged to remember their loved one as full of life.
The casket is typically a simple wooden box devoid of metal. Holes are sometimes drilled into the bottom to help the body return to the earth. Inside, the body is dressed very simply.
Why is the earth from Israel important?
Jewish teachings state that with the arrival of the messiah, all Jews will rise from the dead. According to the Midrash interpretation of biblical narratives, those buried in Israel will rise first.
Many Jewish people long to be buried in Israel, but bringing dirt from the motherland is another solution. The lowering of the casket is one of the most essential parts of the service, and after it, the family shovels earth into the grave, including some soil from Israel.
Why are headstones required at the burial site?
According to traditional Jewish lore, the deceased’s soul hovers over the burial site after leaving the body. The tombstone gives it a place to rest.
Folklore aside, monuments help loved ones accept their loss. Monuments are often simple and steer clear of polished stones to avoid forbidden displays of opulence. Headstones are preferred over footstones to reflect the body-washing ritual, which begins with the head.
Derrick Monument Company Inc in Le Roy, NY, crafts headstones to honor the lives of the deceased. Established in 1915, this monument specialist creates tributes that meet the wishes and needs of all families. Visit their website for a look at their designs or call (585) 768-8470 to discuss a project.