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Religious Studies

Judaism: death rites

Mourning

No flowers are given at a Jewish funeral and the service is short. Orthodox Jews do not usually allow cremation but Progressive Jews sometimes cremate the dead.

After burial a blessing is said:

May G-d comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

The family return home to sit Shiva (meaning 'seven' - it's a seven-day mourning ritual). For the next seven days a candle is kept burning and the mirrors in the house are covered. The mourners stay at home; they do not shave or cut their hair and they sit on low stools.

Kaddish [Kaddish: Prayer publicly recited by mourners. ] is said three times a day. Shiva [Shiva: Seven days of intense mourning following the burial of a close relation. During this period, all ordinary work is prohibited. ] is broken only by the Sabbath or a Jewish festival. The thirty days after burial are called Sheloshim, when the mourners do not go out for pleasure and continue to mourn.

For the next eleven months Kaddish is said every day. From then on, the dead person is remembered each year on the anniversary of their death by the lighting of a Yahrzeit candle and by reciting Kaddish.

Just before the first anniversary a tombstone will be placed at the grave. When people visit a Jewish grave they place a small stone on the gravestone as a sign of respect.

Back to Death index

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