Judaism is a religion of life, but teaches much at end of one’s life. There is a Jewish way of death, mourning and bereavement, which often begins at the sickbed, when the rabbi help a family recite the ‘vidui’, or final confession, of a dying person. In Judaism, vidui, or confession, is a ritual of transition and release, and is a great comfort to many families.
Once death has taken place, the funeral usually happens within a day or two; the precise time is set by agreement of the family, the funeral home, and the rabbi. The rabbi or his designee, if he is not available, will visit with the family before the funeral to plan the service together, answer questions, and collect personal information for a eulogy. After the funeral, the family is encouraged to sit ‘shivah’ by staying at home for up to seven days. The shivah means seven and comes from a Biblical verse which describes the period of mourning as one week.
After shivah, immediate family members recite a prayer reserved for mourners, the Mourner’s Kaddish, for up to 12 months after the death, depending on various circumstances. An “unveiling” of the memorial stone can happen at any time which is both comfortable and convenient for the family; it does not have to be a minimum number of months after the death, but should be arranged in advance so that the rabbi may help recite the memorial prayers.
It is impossible to fully describe traditional Jewish mourning practices, so please contact the rabbi, either before or after a loved one’s passing, with questions or concerns. In urgent situations, including imminent death or arranging a funeral, please call the Beth Hillel Synagogue office at any time. If it is after office hours, there will be at least one emergency contact number given on the outgoing message.