With more than 14.7 million practitioners of Judaism worldwide as of 2019, many Jewish funerals take place every year to honour those who have passed within the religion. Due to the nature of a Jewish funeral ceremony, many people have a whole host of questions related to them such as what is the cost of a Jewish funeral?
What happens at a Jewish funeral?
Jewish funeral procedures can take place at a synagogue, funeral home or grave site. A Jewish funeral will start with readings from the Psalms or other Jewish scriptures that contain ideas about the afterlife which is a dominant belief in the religion. Then, eulogies are carried out, which is when the rabbi and those who are close to the deceased person may highlight some of the positive aspects of their loved one’s life. They may also express some feelings about how sad they are regarding the person’s passing. This gives everyone a chance to reflect on their own personal relationship with the person who has died.
The final prayer of the service is called the El Maleh Rachamim, which begs God to grant eternal peace and rest to the soul of the deceased. When the service is over, the coffin is carried to the grave site and the burial will start. At this point, the coffin is put into the grave and soil is covered over its surface by the mourning party, which is known as the shovel ritual. A shovel facing upwards represents their unwillingness to let the deceased person go, but if the shovel faces downwards towards the earth, this represents their acceptance of the death. This has both a religious and personal significance as it is a way of showing respect for the deceased person as well as complying with the biblical commandment of returning a body to the earth. Following the burial, the Kaddish is recited, which is a prayer that gives praise to God and a testament of unrelenting faith.
Once the burial has taken place, it is common for the tearing of garments to occur. This is when the family of the deceased may tear a small piece of their clothing or wear a black ribbon to symbolise their grief. After the burial, the mourners return to the home of the deceased where they begin the first stage of mourning in Judaism.
What to wear to a Jewish funeral?
There are various expectations when it comes to the dress code for Jewish funerals in the UK. For everyone in attendance, dark colours are strongly advised as a marker of respect for the deceased person. For men, it is recommended to wear a suit and tie along with a yarmulke or kippah, which is a Jewish skull cap. On the other hand, women usually wear a dress, skirt or blouse with no exposed skin. They may also wear an accessory which covers their head such as a hat or scarf. As is customary with most funeral services, a Jewish funeral requires all attendees to dress respectfully with no clothing items that could cause offence or that would be controversial to wear.
How does a Jewish funeral work?
As typical with Jewish tradition, a Jewish funeral service will occur as soon as possible after the person has died, which is normally within a 24 hour window. However, this depends on other factors as in certain circumstances, the burial can be delayed.
There are also certain rules to follow for this type of funeral. It is customary for a Jewish funeral to take place after a period of mourning. The body of the deceased person also needs to be buried in a wooden casket and it is not to be washed or embalmed.
Furthermore, those that are officially categorised as mourners are the parent, child, spouse or sibling of the deceased person. This grieving party will have specific roles to perform before, during and after the funeral such as carrying out some readings.
How long is a Jewish funeral?
The length of a Jewish funeral can fluctuate according to the location, the branch of Judaism and the personal requests of the grieving party. However, a typical Jewish funeral service will last between 15 minutes and an hour.
Jewish Funerals in the UK
Middleton’s Funeral Services believe in assisting people to carry out a respectful service in line with their personal and religious values. To plan a Jewish funeral or to explore the cost of a Jewish funeral in the UK, why not contact us today?
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