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Death and Mourning

If you are reading this because you’ve just lost a member of your family, please accept our sincerest condolences. 

For all lifecycle events, especially a death in the family, the first step is to call the synagogue office at (978) 263-3061. This call will set in motion a series of events, as follows:

  • The office staff will contact the Rabbi and the Chesed (Caring) Committee.
  • During this call the office staff will discuss:
    –  Announcement to the congregation.
    – The proposed date of funeral.
    – Funeral homes to contact. We recommend Brezniak Funeral Directors (617-969-0800)
  • The office or Rabbi will connect with you about clergy availability for the proposed date for the funeral.
  • The Rabbi will contact the family of the deceased both for emotional and practical guidance for this difficult period.  At that point, we will discuss shiva options, including  proposed date(s) and time(s).
  • The Chesed Committee will contact the family to discuss physical needs — meals, etc — and will put in motion its members to ensure a proper shiva minyan (if the family desires). This may include providing additional chairs, prayer books, or other ritual items required depending on the time of the minyan.

The Funeral

A Jewish funeral can take place either in the synagogue or at the graveside. It is not a prayer service, but rather a time to remember the life of the deceased, to express grief and brokenness, and to recite specific prayers for the dead. A funeral lasts between  a half an hour and an hour, and is followed by the burial. At the grave there is a special Mourner’s Kaddish said by the immediate family.

Jews usually do not cremate the dead or embalm. You can discuss these traditions further with the CBE clergy.

It is a mitzvah for the family to fill in the grave, as Chesed shel Emet, an act of kindness that can’t be returned, and that the deceased can’t do themselves. While this is emotionally difficult, it also provides catharsis and closure, because of the physical nature of the mitzvah.

The recitation of Mourner’s Kaddish begins after the burial, and continues at each service for one month, or 11 months depending on the relationship to the deceased.
 

After the Funeral and the Shiva

After the funeral, there is a meal of consolation which the Rabbi may or may not attend.

Shiva in Hebrew means “seven” and it is the number of days of the most intense mourning for the immediate family. It begins after the burial and ends after Shacharit (in the morning) on the seventh day. It is interrupted by Shabbat and Chagim (Torah holidays, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot). The space is provided for the mourner to remember the deceased and process their loss. If the mourners do not wish to socialize, that is fine and proper. Our tradition teaches that the spirit of the deceased is close at hand in a shiva home. It is thus a time to share memories of the deceased, and for visitors to let the mourners know that they are supported and are not alone in this world.

Traditionally a shiva minyan is held at the home of mourners. This is because during the first seven days after the funeral, the mourners are not expected to leave their home, so the community comes to them to provide necessities like food and sustenance, and to make a minyan for the mourners to say Kaddish. Customarily, at CBE, there may be 1 to 3 minyanim held in the home. Clergy or lay leaders will lead the congregational prayers. It is a great mitzvah to lead a shiva minyan. Please contact CBE clergy or our Ritual Committee at ritual@bethelohim.org to learn how to lead this service.
 

Shloshim

In Hebrew, shloshim means “thirty”, and is the thirty-day period after the funeral, of less intense mourning from Shiva. During this time, the name of the deceased will be read from the Bimah prior to Mourner’s Kaddish. Mourners often come to synagogue services during that period (if not at other times) to say Kaddish whenever possible. In addition to Shabbat services, our community comes together for afternoon weekday minyanim (and occasional Sunday morning minyan) to support all those who would like to say Kaddish. The end of shloshim marks the traditional end of the recitation of Kaddish, except for parents and teachers. However, it has become the tradition to say Kaddish for the full 11 months. Feel free to contact CBE clergy to discuss other milestones, including unveilings.
 

Questions?

Feel free to contact CBE clergy or the Ritual Committee at ritual@bethelohim.org.

 

Sun, May 29 2022 28 Iyyar 5782