jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Funeral Services - לוויה

Funeral Time and Place

The time interval between death and the funeral should be as short as possible. The Torah forbids Halanat HaMet / הלנת המת — leaving a corpse unburied overnight and formulates this requirement as a positive commandment in “but you shall surely bury him the same day / כי קבור תקברנו ביום ההוא” as well as a negative commandment in “his corpse shall not remain overnight /  לא תלין נבלתו”‎ ‎ (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Burying without delay is an important aspect of Kavod HaMet / כבוד המת — showing respect for the dignity of the dead. One must strike a balance, however, between respect accorded by prompt burial and the respect accorded by a proper, well-attended funeral. Consequently, a valid reason for delay might be the need to wait for the delivery of shrouds or a proper casket, or to wait for the arrival of the eulogizing rabbi or the arrival of close relatives, who cannot arrive in time for a same day funeral. Funerals do not take place on the Sabbath / שבת and Yom Tov / יום טוב — a major Jewish Holiday and are postponed until the next day. Funerals are sometimes delayed because of government regulations requiring a postmortem examination, or completion of documentation, etc. Any other type of delay is usually considered Nivul HaMet / ניבול המת — humiliation of the dead, and is not allowed.

Depending on the local custom and the communal status of the deceased, Jewish funeral services may take place in the home of the deceased, in the synagogue, or in a funeral chapel located either in the funeral home or in the Jewish cemetery. It is not uncommon also for the Jewish funeral service to be held at the graveside. Sometimes, especially among Sephardim, the funeral starts at home and continues in a funeral chapel or at the graveside.

Normally the funeral and the burial should be completed by nightfall. In Jerusalem, however, same day funerals are strictly enforced. If necessary, the burial is held even at night there.