What was your reaction to death

Rites and customs

The traditions surrounding death and mourning serve to respect the dignity of the deceased and to alleviate the pain of loved ones.

The preservation of life is the highest value of theJudaism. When a life comes to an end, it counts in theJudaism certain things to be aware of. So one speaks for or with a person who is dying, the confession of sin (“Widuj”) and the creed (“Hear Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is only”, Deut. 6: 4). Death must not be hastened, so anything must be avoided that could lead to faster death. Active euthanasia and assisted suicide are therefore fundamentally prohibited in Judaism.

Chewra Kaddisha - The holy community cares for the dead

As soon as a person dies, you light a candle and keep a wake. In earlier times in particular, the wake was important to keep animals away from the dead and to be able to react in the event of apparent death. After death, you get in touch with the Chewra Kaddisha, the “holy community”. It consists of volunteers oneJewish communitywho wash the dead, put on the dead clothes (white cotton or linen robe) and take care of the funeral. A male deceased also receives a white kippah and is wrapped in his tallit (see also kippah), the prayer shawl. On the tallit, however, the zizits, the shop threads, are cut off, as they are intended to remind the wearer of the fulfillment of religious duties that the dead can no longer exercise. The clothing for the dead, which is the same for all deceased, is supposed to symbolize that everyone is the same when they stand before the Creator in the world to come.

Dealing with the dead with respect

A corpse must be treated with respect and buried quickly, if possible within 24 hours. Exceptions are possible if the deceased has to be autopsied. At theShabbat and there are no funerals on public holidays. A corpse must be completely buried, i.e. all parts of the body that have been severed from the body, e.g. by accidents, must also be buried. Therefore, there is traditionally a ban on cremation.

The deceased is buried wrapped in the shroud; if coffins are required in a simple wooden coffin. This is to ensure that the deceased quickly turns to "dust" ("For you are dust and you return to dust", Gen 3:19). TheJudaism knows no laying out or embalming a dead person.

Funeral and memorial service

When one hears of the death of a friend, one says "Baruch Dayan Emet": "Praise be to the true judge". There is a memorial service before the funeral. A funeral speech is held for the deceased and the kaddish ("sanctification") is spoken. Prayer is actually a praise to God, which can be found several times in the Jewish liturgy, but has developed into the central prayers in memory of the deceased. The kaddish is recited three times a day for eleven months if a minyan is present.

As an expression of the mourning for the deceased, the relatives tear the upper clothing at the funeral service (Hebrew "Krija", "Riss"). For the deceased mother or father you tear the left side, for spouses, children or siblings the right side at chest height. Then the dead person is led to the grave and lowered into the pit. Anyone attending the funeral can pour a shovel of earth into the grave. Psalms and the kaddish are recited and the grave is closed. Finally the “El Male Rachamim (“ God full of mercy ”) is spoken. When leaving the cemetery, it is customary to wash your hands.

Three periods of mourning

Judaism knows three different periods of mourning: seven days, thirty days and a year. The first seven days after the funeral are called "Shiva" ("seven"). One speaks of “Schiva sitting” because the next of kin of the deceased (parents, spouse, children, siblings) mourn sitting together on low chairs. Male mourners do not shave, cut their hair and women do not put on make-up. Pleasure is foregone and the mourners do not go to work. Household activities are avoided. Friends and acquaintances visit the mourners and provide meals. At theShabbat and the Shiva sitting is suspended on the biblical holidays.

The second period of mourning is called "Schloschim" ("thirty"). It lasts from the end of the shiva sitting until the 30th day after the funeral. In some communities the tombstone is then placed on the grave, in others only after a year. You don't cut your hair or shave during this time either. This ends the grief for the relatives. Only for the parents do you mourn longer.

If the mother or father dies, the children mourn for twelve months. During this time they do not attend any celebrations or festive events. The mourning ends one year after the day of death (according to the Jewish calendar) and is called “year time”. When the anniversary of the death comes, the kaddish is said again and the grave is visited.

Jewish cemeteries

In Judaism, cemeteries are referred to as Bet Hachajim (place of life) or Bet Haolam (place of eternity). Jewish graves must not be leveled, but should exist forever. Instead of flowers, small stones are placed on graves. The custom probably stems from the fact that earlier heavy stones were placed on graves (e.g. in the desert) in order to protect the dead from wild animals and thus to ensure the peace of the dead. Stones also symbolize eternity and immortality and stand as a symbol for the soul, which is also immortal.

Hebrew inscriptions can be found on tombstones in Jewish cemeteries. These stand for po nitman (mask.) / Po nitmena (fem.) “Here is buried” or for po tamun (mask.) / Po tmuna (fem.) “Here is safe”. At the end there is the abbreviated five-letter formula “Tehi nafscho / nafscha zrura bizror hachajim” (“May his / her soul be integrated into the bond of life”; 1. Sam 25:29). On old gravestones there are often pictorial elements that refer, for example, to a deer or lion and thus to the name of a deceased person. The symbol of the blessing hands refers to a descendant of the priestly caste (Kohen). A jug symbolizes the tribe of Levi, the servants, whose members gave the priests in the temple the water for ablutions.