Jewish Death And Dying Essay, Research Paper
3/17/00 Informative paper
Jewish Death and dying
There are numerous cultures in this planet today; however the Jewish view of death makes this culture unique from the rest. Jewish death and mourning rites have two basic principles: kevod ha-met, respectful treatment of the dead, and kevod he-chai, consideration for the feelings of the living. These two principles are highly regarded by the Jewish community (Kolatch 7-8).
When a member of a Jewish family is seriously ill it is mandated that immediate family visit the sick during the first three days of sickness. After the three days are over other friends and family can visit. Visitation is not allowed for the first and last three hours of the day, because Moses a twelfth century scholar explained in his Misneh Torah, that medical attention should be given during those hours. The Rabbis of the Talmud (similar to a Catholic Priest) encourage the visiting of the seriously sick, claiming that this eliminates one sixth of the sick person’s pain. By not visiting would make the non-visitor a sinner. It is encouraged that a dying person confesses his or her sins if the person is on the verge of dying to cleanse themselves before they part. Judaism law demands that a terminally ill person should be companied twenty four hours a day to prevent the sick to be plagued with thoughts of death and more important, to keep the demons from taking charge of the patients soul when he dies. A candle is also lighted in the room of the terminally ill to scare off evil spirits and to make it known that a human soul is about to leave earth (Watson)
After the death of a person the eyes are closed, so the person can finally rest in peace. Some Jews place the body of the deceased on the floor immediately after death. This is done to cool the body to slow the deterioration of the body and also fulfill the biblical prognostication “for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return”(Genesis 3:19). A candle is then lit and placed near the corpse head to show respect to the soul that departed. In the past twenty-six candles were light around the body; twenty-six is the Jewish numerical number meaning “God.” Today this is done only to show respect to the dead. Jewish people treat a close family members death similar to Americans. Relatives and friends of the deceased feel great distress, sorrow, and pain.
Preparing the deceased for burial is one of the highest priorities in Judaism. The corpse most be thoroughly cleansed in order to return to God in a state of purity. Cremation is not allowed in Jewish law. The corpse is dressed simple, inexpensive, white, loose, linen, garments called shrouds: This was done so the dead would be better prepared for resurrection. The coffins most be made out of unpolished pinewood: this shows how Jewish most treat the dead with simplicity and modesty like tradition expects them to. Each member of the family must tear their garment (long white robe) to show their inner pain. At the chapel service people recite the Hashkaba (Rest in peace prayer).
The first shovels of dirt or thrown by family members and friends. After the service is concluded the cemetery crew fills the grave. Everyone who attends the funeral must cover his or her heads as a sign of respect. Jewish tradition mandates that mourning for a loved one should be seven days (Shoult 34-64). All mirrors are covered for the seven days of mourning, because it is improper to worry about ones looks during mourning. Any form of entertainment and social activity is forbidden during the mourning week. After mourning week loved ones may make visits to the cemetery (Kolatch 200-234).
There are many differences between the Jewish culture and other cultures, but one thing that almost all cultures have in common is that almost all mourn when a death to a loved one occurs. The Jewish culture is one that has extraordinary respect for their dead. Not to many cultures treat incident of death like Judaism. I don’t know any Jewish people, but my respect toward them has increased.