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Installment #2

10/29/2019 09:31:07 AM


Dr. Alan Winters

Chevra kadisha (the society of people who prepare the body for burial). The chevra kadisha (Hebrew: חברה קדישה - holy society) is a Jewish burial society usually consisting of volunteers, men and women, who prepare the body of the deceased for proper Jewish burial.

Their job is to ensure that the body is shown proper respect, ritually cleansed, and shrouded.

Preparing the body: (taharah) There are three major stages to preparing the body for burial: washing (rechitzah), ritual purification (taharah), and dressing (halbashah). The term taharah is used to refer both to the overall process of burial preparation, and to the specific step of ritual purification. Prayers and readings from Torah, including Psalms, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah are recited.

The general sequence of steps for performing taharah is as follows: The body is washed carefully, thoroughly cleaned. All jewelry is removed. The body is purified with water, either by immersion in a mikveh or by pouring a continuous stream of 9 kavim (usually 3 buckets) in a prescribed manner. The body is dried and dressed in traditional burial shroud (tachrichim). A sash (avnet) is wrapped around the shroud and tied in the form of the Hebrew letter shin, representing one of the names of God. The casket (aron) is prepared by removing any linings or other embellishments. A winding sheet (sovev) is laid into the casket. Outside the Land of Israel, if the deceased wore a prayer shawl (talit) during their life, one is laid in the casket for wrapping the body. One of the corner fringes (tzitzit) is removed from the shawl to signify that it will no longer be used for prayer and that the person is absolved from having to keep any of the mitzvot (commandments).

The body is lifted into the casket and wrapped in the prayer shawl or shroud and sheet. Soil (afar) from Eretz Israel, if available, is placed over various parts of the body and sprinkled in the casket. The casket is closed. After the closing of the casket, the chevra asks forgiveness from the deceased for any inadvertent lack of honor shown to the deceased in the preparation of the body for burial.

Sun, April 11 2021 29 Nisan 5781