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Jewish Burial Society

Chevra Kadisha - חברה קדישא

The Chevra Kadisha / חברה קדישא (plural: Chevrot Kadisha / חברות קדישא) — Sacred Fellowship or Sacred Society is an organization traditionally composed of volunteers. It is also known as Holy Society, Hevrat Chesed VeEmet — Kindness and Truth Society, Hevra Gomelei Hasadim — Performers of Kindness Society or Hebra Rodfei Zedek — Pursuers of Justice Society.

The members of the Sacred Society together with the family of the deceased are responsible for all necessary preparations to ensure a proper funeral. Membership in this organization has been and continues to be very honorable. Famous rabbis served in the Chevrah Kadishah. Among them, for example, was a luminary such as the Chasam Sofer / חת"ם סופר — Rabbi Moses Schreiber of nineteenth-century Austria-Hungary.

Chevra Kadisha functions. Most well organized Jewish communities offer the services of a Chevra Kaddisha, which will prepare the body for burial. Men prepare men and women prepare women. Major cities in Israel and in the USA — Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — are often served by more then one Chevra Kadisha.

Chevrah Kadisha services include guarding the body from the moment of death until burial, the ritual cleansing of the body and subsequent dressing for burial. A more detailed discussion of the Jewish funeral preparation will follow shortly. One of the most important functions of the Khevra Kaddishah is burying a Met Mitzvah / מת מצוה - a deceased who has nobody else to take care of his or her burial. Many Chevra Kadisha societies also support families during the Shivah / שבעה — the first week of mourning, by arranging meals, prayer services, etc.

The anniversary of the birth and death of Moses on Zayin Adar / ז' אדר — the seventh day of the Jewish month of Adar / אדר, is the traditional celebration of the Chewra Kadischa, since on that day God Himself performed the duties of the Chevre Kadisha and buried Moses (Talmud Tractate Megillah 13b). Many Chevros Kadisha hold an annual fast on that day to atone for any inadvertent disrespect shown to the dead. This fast is followed by a fundraising Zayin Adar banquet. Some, however, do it on other dates, e.g., the 15th or 20th of Kislev / כסלו or the 18th of Iyar / אייר. In addition to this, Hevrot Kadisha meet on a regular basis to study relevant topics of Jewish law.