jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Funeral Services - לוויה

Funeral Procession Etiquette

Etiquette. Those who take part in the funeral procession should not engage in idle talk thus showing disrespect to the deceased. If it is absolutely necessary to say something, one should whisper. It is best to reserve socializing for after the funeral. We should keep in mind that while we may be glad to see a friend or have good news to share, the mourners are brokenhearted and the deceased, whose soul is present, can no longer do the things we are doing now. Therefore, people should not exchange greetings for the whole duration of the funeral; it is definitely forbidden once the funeral procession enters the cemetery.

Today’s custom is that women walk only behind the bier and certainly do not walk among the men. In some communities, especially among Sephardim, women do not attend funerals and even when they attend the funeral service, they do not enter the cemetery.

Obligation to Join Funeral Procession. Unless the memorial service was held in close proximity to the cemetery, the coffin is carried first to the hearse and everyone follows the hearse on foot for a short while. Those who plan to go to the cemetery drive the rest of the way to the cemetery in a motorcar procession. Those who do not go to the cemetery stand in respect until the funeral procession has gone out of sight and then they say, paraphrasing the verse in the Book of Daniel 12:13:

לך/לכי בשלום
ותנוח/ותנוחי על משכבך בשלום
ותעמד/ותעמדי לגורלך
לקץ הימים׃

Go in peace
and rest in peace and
stand up to your destiny
at the end of the days.

The Mitzvah / מצווה to accompany the deceased to burial is so important that one might be obligated to interrupt his regular business, Torah study and performance of other religious duties in order to participate in the funeral, as we have discussed above. If one sees a funeral procession, it is customary to turn and escort the deceased a minimum of Arba Amot / ארבע אמות — four cubits to show respect for the deceased and sympathy for the mourners, even if one does not know the deceased.

Entering the cemetery. Before going to the cemetery, the hearse sometimes stops at some other locations, such as the synagogue, where the deceased prayed, or yeshiva, where he learned, so that the people there could pay their respects.

When the procession approaches the Jewish cemetery, those who have not seen Jewish graves in the past thirty days recite the special blessing, as explained above. However, the mourners, who are Onenim / אונֵנים at this moment, are exempt. Some rabbinical authorities rule that other participants are exempt as well. All the usual rules of etiquette apply as one enters the Jewish cemetery.