jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Funeral Services - לוויה

Flowers and Music

Mourners display their grief by refraining from enjoyable things. Therefore, flowers and music at the funeral are not in the spirit of Jewish tradition, because both flowers and music are associated with festivity and joy.

In ancient times, spices and fragrant flowers were brought to mask the odor of the decaying body. However, extravagant floral arrangements would contradict guidelines of simplicity instituted by the rabbis, so that the poor would not be shamed and the wealthy would not compete with each other in displaying their wealth (Talmud, Tractate Moed Katan 27b). Nowadays, the flowers simply imitate non-Jewish customs and should be discouraged.

It is much better to honor the deceased by making a donation to a synagogue, Yeshiva / ישיבה, or a hospital. This type of tribute is more meaningful and lasting. Alternatively, one may send kosher food to the mourners for the meal of condolence. If, however, somebody has brought the flowers or floral wreaths with the best intentions and would be offended if the flowers are thrown away, it is permitted to keep them, preferably in an inconspicuous place.

Donations and Memorial Gifts

It is an ancient Jewish custom to make donations to Jewish charities at the time of the funeral. Giving Tzedakah / צדקה — charity, elevates the soul, because it is given in memory of the deceased. Jewish tradition lists several reasons for this custom. When dealing with death it is very appropriate to counter it with charity, because charity is stronger than death (Talmud, Tractate Baba Batra 10a) as it is written “charity saves one from death / וצדקה תציל ממות” (Proverbs 10:2). Charity shows the concern and willingness to help. At the funeral it symbolizes the pain felt by others for the family of the deceased. Finally, in the World to Come the dead will be resurrected because of charity (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer).

It is also customary to contribute prayer books, Books of Torah and Prophets, Tractates of Talmud, Codes of Jewish Law, Torah scrolls or Torah ornaments, etc., for synagogue or school use. This is a more appropriate and dignified way of showing friendship and respect than bringing outright gifts to the mourners. The memorial gifts may be selected either by the giver or left to the discretion of the mourners.