Understanding Jewish Funeral Terminology
TAHARAH / PURIFICATION
The most important pre-burial ritual, cleansing and dressing of the deceased by members of the Chevra Kadisha, “The Sacred Society,” according to Jewish law and custom. Men prepare men; only women wash and dress other women.
SHMEERAH / WATCHING
The watching over the deceased by a pious Jewish person, who recites Psalms for the soul of the deceased. As a sign of respect, our tradition teaches that the deceased should not be left unattended until interment is completed.
TACHRICHIM / BURIAL GARMENTS
The traditional white linen suit of burial garments (cap, shirt, pants, etc.) symbolizing that all are equal before their Creator. They are modeled after the clothing of the High Priest worn in the Holy Temple on Yom Kippur.
ARON / CASKET
The wooden casket, in keeping with the Biblical teaching, “dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.”
K’REEAH / TEARING OF GARMENTS
The rending of the mourners’ outer garments, a symbol of their anguish and grief.
K’VURAH / BURIAL
The actual burial in the ground; filling in the grave with earth until a mound is formed. To participate in the filling of the grave is a religious privilege and duty. Traditionally, Kaddish is not recited at an open grave.