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Death and Judaism

Our Talmud writes, “What does it mean that there is no authority over the day of death? It means no one possesses the authority to tell [to the angel of death], "Wait for me until I arrange my affairs and then I will come." Although death and dying is a universal experience, it is a subject that is often avoided.  Our hope with this webpage is to stimulate conversations and thoughts surrounding death, and to provide a starting point to help prepare you and your loved ones for what can often be a difficult and emotional time. It is our goal that by having these difficult conversations, we encourage community members to make their end of life plans well in advance, so their loved ones can focus on mourning their loss.

In our tradition when a loved one and community member dies, we believe the body should  be treated with dignity and that burial should happen as fast as possible. From the moment our community learns of a death it is our responsibility to move quickly and prepare for all the things that the family and our tradition requires. This includes watching the body, called Shmira, and performing Tahara, which is ritually cleaning the body. Both are described in greater detail below. This also includes working with the family so all the logistics of the funeral and burial are taken care of for their loved one.

In Judaism we are commanded to bury our loved ones within three days of their death at the maximum. It’s preferable to do so sooner. If you would like to help in this part of the process there are lots of opportunities for community members to volunteer so that we can ease the suffering of mourning loved ones and make the grieving process easier. See below for more options to help.

How to say Kaddish

Kaddish - Every Jewish service includes a Mourner’s Kaddish
The names of loved ones who are in a period of Shiva, Sheloshim, or Yahrzeit are mentioned

This prayer is a defiant declaration of faith and is often necessary for mourners at the time of the loss of their loved ones when there is a tendency to deny God’s presence and goodness. There is no mention of death in this prayer. Rather, it affirms God’s Name as manifest in every place and at every instant, even at our darkest moments of loss, anger, fear, despair, and confusion. It expresses our obligation to nurture a world that is filled with holiness. Mourners proclaim the Kaddish as the body of their loved ones is interred in the earth. The prayer is written in Aramaic using Hebrew letters, the colloquial language of Jews during Talmudic times. https://reformjudaism.org/preparing-jewish-funeral-guide

Rabbi's Judaism 101 on Death and Judaism PDF

El Malei Rachamim

● This means fully compassionate God
● It’s unique in that it is only recited at a funeral
● It’s both haunting and beautiful

Translation:
God of abundant mercy, God Most High, may the soul of our loved ones, who has gone into eternity, find the gift of perfect peace in Your Embrace - together with the holy and pure, whose light shines like
the radiance of heaven.

Compassionate God hold () close to you forever, so that () soul may be bound up in the bond of life eternal.

May () find a home with you; and may () rest in peace. Together we say Amen.

Sun, June 13 2021 3 Tammuz 5781