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Installment #1

09/16/2019 10:07:22 AM


Dr. Alan Winters

Traditional Jewish Mourning Practices a weekly serial written by Dr. Alan Winters of the 7am morning minyan

Installment #1

Jewish practices relating to death and mourning have two purposes: to show respect for the dead (kavod ha-met), and to comfort the living (nihum avelim). Bereavement in Judaism (avelut) is a combination of tradition and commandments derived from Judaism's classical Torah and rabbinic texts.

Judaism teaches that when a person dies, the soul or (neshama) hovers around the body until the burial. This neshama is the eternal essence of the person, the consciousness and totality; the thoughts, deeds, experiences and relationships. The body was its container and the neshama, now on the way to the Eternal World, doesn’t completely depart until the body is buried. Therefore, a Jewish funeral is concerned with both the deceased, and the mourners. We treat the body and the mourners with honor and dignity.

1. Defining a Mourner: The principal mourners the first-degree relatives: parent, child, sibling, and spouse. Bereavement in Judaism (Hebrew : אֲבֵלוּת , avelut, mourning, is a combination of (minhag), custom and (mitzvah), Torah commandment. The details of observance and practice vary according to each Jewish community. The period from the moment of death until the burial is called aninut, and a mourner in this stage is called an onen. The onen has no religious obligations except to attend to the practical necessities of arranging for the funeral. The Jewish understanding is that an onen cannot focus on anything other than the immediate issue of the burial, and should not be expected to be capable of any ritual observances, even those that might otherwise be performed on a daily basis (such as reciting the Shema).

2. Upon receiving news of the passing: Upon receiving the news of the passing, the following blessing is recited: ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת. Transliteration: Barukh atah adonai eloheinu melekh ha'olam, dayan ha-emet. Translation: "Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Judge of Truth [alt., the Just Judge]." Some have the custom of tearing one's clothes at the moment one hears news of a passing. Another prevalent custom, which we practice in our community, is to tear one’s clothing or wear a torn or cut black ribbon at the funeral.

Sun, April 11 2021 29 Nisan 5781