In the days following
Here we’ve answered some common questions about the Jewish funeral service and burial.
When should the funeral service take place?
By Jewish law and custom, the burial should take place as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours of death. When this is not feasible, Jewish law requires one to complete the arrangements as expeditiously as possible.
Where should the service take place?
Everything done for the deceased falls under the rubric of k’vod ha-meit, respect for the deceased.
Generally the services are held at but not limited to:
-Chapel Service at Funeral Home
-Service at the Synagogue of the deceased
-Service at Graveside
Most funeral services take place in the chapel at the funeral home. It is usually the most convenient and dignified location for the service, providing a comfortable and proper locale to eulogize and memorialize your loved one. A chapel service is not subject to the vagaries of the weather, or other outside distractions. At Mount Sinai Memorial Chapels, we pride ourselves on the beauty and dignity of our facilities, and we make every effort to do whatever possible to ease the family through this most difficult time.
If the deceased had been an active member of a Synagogue, and local custom permits, the service might take place in the Synagogue. Our staff and your Rabbi will be able to advise you.
If, for example, only a very few people will be attending, or because of geographical considerations, one might choose to hold the service at the gravesite.
How do I prepare for the service?
If the Rabbi is the only speaker, then your meeting with the Rabbi will provide all the information necessary for the eulogy. If others in the family, or friends, plan to speak, then they will make the necessary preparations. Although it can be very honorable to the deceased for family members to speak, keep in mind that it is very difficult to eulogize someone, it is a very emotional time for the family, and excessive eulogizing tends to detract from the dignity of the occasion.
You should plan to be at the funeral home approximately 45 minutes before the scheduled start of the service (note that funeral services should always start on time due to commitments with other parties involved. IE. Cemetery) in order to take care of any unfinished paperwork, make an identification of the deceased (if desired), and to be available to acknowledge friends and family coming to the service.
What should I wear?
There is no prescribed “funeral attire”. You should wear comfortable, yet dignified attire, appropriate to the occasion, a religious ceremony commemorating the life of your loved one.
If you plan to do a traditional k’riyah, the funeral home will provide ribbons but if cutting the garments, be sure to wear something “cuttable.”
How long does the service take?
The “average” funeral service at the chapel usually takes 30 minutes. Please advise the Rabbi and the Mount Sinai Memorial Chapels Care Team if there will be additional speakers.
Should I bring children?
Jewish tradition regards a funeral as a very important part of the life cycle, and an important educational opportunity. Children are naturally curious, and amazingly resilient. They will absorb as much as is appropriate for their age and level of maturity. They will ask questions; answers need not be complete, but should always be truthful.
Most children are perfectly capable of dealing with such stressful situations, sometimes actually better than adults, and under normal circumstances their presence at both the funeral service and the burial is appropriate.
Ultimately, however, you know your own children, and must make a decision based on what is best for them and for you.
What is the procedure at the cemetery?
The burial in the ground, k’vurah b’karka, is the most important part of the funeral. Therefore, everyone who is able should make every effort to “accompany the deceased” (levayah) to the cemetery.
Upon arrival at the cemetery and filing the papers at the office, the procession will continue to the gravesite, where the casket is carried to the grave, accompanied by the family and friends.
After lowering the casket, it is then appropriate for all present to participate in the actual burial by shoveling earth into the grave, as it is the primary responsibility of the family and the community. As different Rabbis have differing standards and procedures they follow, please take direction from the Rabbi.
After the appropriate prayers have been recited, friends and family traditionally form two lines, facing each other, so the immediate mourners may walk between them to hear the first words of comfort after the burial, “ha-makom y’nachem etchem b’toch sh’ar aveilei tzion vi-rushalayim.”
How long does it take at the cemetery?
The service at the cemetery, depending upon which prayers need to be recited and how much of the grave is to be filled in, could take from 15-30 minutes.