jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Funeral Services - לוויה

Funeral Customs

Focus of a Jewish funeral. The focus of a Jewish funeral service is Yekara DeShichva / יקרא דשיכבא — respect, honor, and endearment of the deceased. Comfort and consolation of the mourners come later, after the burial. Until then, Kavod HaMet / כבוד המת — the honor of the deceased remains the primary concern of the Jewish funeral service. During the funeral service the casket should remain closed and the body completely covered.

The Jewish funeral service. Usually a Jewish funeral starts with a Hesped / הספד — a eulogy, delivered by the rabbis, community leaders, relatives and/or friends of the deceased. After that the mourners rend their garments, if they had not already done so earlier. The memorial service, that starts after the rending of the garments, consists of recitations from the Book of Psalms and the Book of Proverbs and is followed by memorial prayers. Afterwards everyone joins the funeral procession escorting the deceased to the grave for burial.

This is, however, only a general outline of the Jewish funeral service. A prayer, psalm or verse might be added and the sequence of the funeral service may vary according to customs of different communities. It is not uncommon, for example, to start with rending and then proceed to the memorial service and eulogy. One should follow the local custom, or ask a competent rabbi for guidance.

Etiquette at a Jewish funeral. Those who attend a funeral should dress conservatively, although, most people do not follow the custom of wearing black as a sign of mourning. The mourners should select the clothes that they are prepared to rend and wear throughout the Shivah / שבעה period, then discard after Shivah, as is customary in many places.

Those who attend the funeral 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.