Current Funeral & Shivah
- First Steps
- Aninut - Preparing to Bury a Loved One
- Kavod Ha Met - Honoring the Dead
- Nihum Avelim - Comforting Mourners
When we lose a parent, a child, a sibling or a spouse, we become an “onen,” or a mourner. “Aninut,“ this particular phase of mourning, refers to the period of time between death and burial. During this time, an onen is not obligated to observe positive religious commandments such as laying tefillin and praying. It is also customary that an onen refrains from luxury – eating meat, drinking wine etc., as the primary focus of this time is the mitzvah of Kavod Ha Met, or honoring the dead by arranging a burial that can happen as quickly as possible within the framework of Jewish tradition. Contacting TBA is your next step. By reaching out immediately to TBA Lifecycle Coordinator Susan Nemetz, Rabbi Kligfeld or me, you will receive the guidance and support needed at such a difficult time. It is important to us that you coordinate with TBA first, even before contacting the mortuary. This will allow us to process with you everything involved with Kavod Ha Met as well as preparing you for marking arrangements with the mortuary/cemetery.
During the period of “Aninut,“ the period of time between death and burial, our primary goal is the mitzvah of Kavod Ha Met, or honoring the dead. We observe this mitzvah by arranging a burial that can happen as quickly as possible within the framework of Jewish tradition. During the period of “Aninut,“ the period of time between death and burial, the family meets with our TBA clergy to plan the funeral. As well as gathering thoughts, reflections and information about the life of a loved one, we are also preparing the family to engage in the mitzvah of Kavod Ha Met, or honoring the dead.
Jewish Obligations, Secular Obligations
In addition to our Jewish obligations during this time, we also have legal obligations to the secular society in which we live. In order for the mortuary to obtain the necessary permits for the burial to take place, they must obtain certification from the deceased’s primary physician, and file this with the county of death. The mortuary staff will handle this process for you. Also, certain situations may require the involvement of the Coroner or Medical Examiner. Again, the Funeral Director helping you will explain all legal requirements to you.
Our Bodies Are Not Really Ours
Even as human beings are born into this world everyday, Judaism views our bodies as a temporary dwelling place for our souls. God has entrusted our bodies to us, that we may put them to good use during our time here on Earth. When the end of that time arrives, Judaism is focused on returning to God what is rightfully God’s. And that means returning the body to the earth. The traditions of Tohorah and takhrikhim are Judaism’s response to the idea that our body is truly on loan to us. Not only should it be treated with the utmost respect when we are alive, but also bodies that have expired deserve respect and care.
Toharah – Loving Preparation of the Body for Burial
The Hevra Kadisha, the corps of dedicated Jews who take on this mitzvah, carry out a simple and dignified washing of the body. The washing is accompanied by the recitation of Biblical verses and then the body is clothed in takhrikhim, traditional white burial shrouds. The rabbis teach us that there is ultimate equality in death and that the simple burial shrouds for every Jew represents this equality. For this reason, Jews are not traditionally buried in their own clothing, jewelry or other adornments.
A kittel, a simple white robe, is worn by Jews during significant moments during life, such as one’s own wedding, leading a seder, or other significant parts of the liturgy during the year and on the High Holidays. At the end of one’s life, the kittel becomes a burial garment. We link these meaningful life moments to the end of our life, by donning this simple garment with no pockets. This symbolizes that just as we came into the world without physical possessions, so too do we leave the world in this way. It is also traditional to bury a Jew in his/her tallit. The tziziyot, the ritual knots on the tallit symbolizing mitzvot, are cut off to symbolize that the deceased person is no longer responsible to observe mitzvot. The tallit should be given to the Hevre Kadisha before they prepare the body for burial. If the deceased did not own a tallit, the Hevra Kadisha may often supply one.
For more information on the history and background of this mitzvah, click here to see Rabbi Noah Golinkin’s halakhic response.
Helping TBA Help You
If you have purchased any pre-need burial property at Eden Memorial Park, Hillside Memorial Park or Mount Sinai Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills or Simi Valley), please contact Susan Nemetz, TBA Lifecycle Coordinator and let her know where your property is and what type of pre-need arrangements have been made. Temple Beth Am is assembling a database of all TBA member pre-need property so that Rabbi Kligfeld and I can be aware of this important information.