jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Funeral Services - לוויה

Stops during Funeral Procession

The stops. It is customary to make several ceremonial stops — Maamadot / מעמדות during the funeral procession to show how difficult it is to part with the deceased. Pallbearers may be exchanged at this time. Some communities stop two or three times, others stop more often. In Jerusalem the custom is to stop every time the funeral procession passes in front of a synagogue. The prevailing custom is to stop seven times, corresponding to seven days of the week and to the number of times the word Hevel / הבל — futility (literally: vapor) is mentioned in the verse “Futility of futilities, said Kohelet, futility of futilities! All is futile. / הבל הבלים, אמר קהלת, הבל הבלים, הכל הבל” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Every stop symbolizes the liberation from the vanity of this world and transfer to the world without vanity.

The recitations. In some communities, the mourners recite at each stop the Mourner's Kaddish / קדיש יתום and, if the funeral is for a woman, a selection of verses from the Book of Proverbs 31:10-31:31 describing an Eshet Chayil / אשת חיל — a woman of valor. Some also recite at each stop the Mishnah / משנה in Tractate Avot 3:1, a mystical prayer “Ana BeKoach / אנא בכח” and either the entire Tzidduk HaDin / צידוק הדין or just the second part of Tzidduk HaDin / צידוק הדין. Most recite verses from Psalms 90 and 91 in a special way, as described in the next section, and afterwards, some continue with the recitation of Psalm 92 through the end of Psalm 100.

Alternative customs. In some communities it is customary to stop and sit down seven times when leaving the cemetery. At each stop they recite verses from Psalms 90 and 91 in a manner described in the next section. Some have a custom to circle the coffin of the deceased male seven times (Hakafot / הקפות), read all the verses of Psalm 91 and add one stanza from “Ana BeKoach / אנא בכח” after each circle.

The stops and the verses from Psalm 91, which tells us that God protects those who trust Him, drive away harmful spiritual influences (Talmud, Tractate Shevuot 15b). On the days of communal rejoicing, when eulogizing is not permitted, these influences are not present and, therefore, the funeral procession does not make the stops, but some still recite Psalm 91 seven times.