Jewish funeral and mourning practices

Authored by: Vanessa L. Ochs

The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138852075
eBook ISBN: 9781315723747
Adobe ISBN:


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Sociologist Samuel Heilman has written that the Jewish funeral, in creating a separation between the dead and the living, “seeks to reflect the Jewish people’s fundamental realization that, although they die and feel the precariousness of their existence, they also continue and survive, that they have lost one connection but remain bonded to others” (Heilman 2001: 74). Jewish funeral and mourning practices reflecting this mood have been transmitted mimetically from one generation to another and have been written down, as well, in sacred texts, commentaries, and handbooks for clergy, members of burial societies, and laypeople. In the modern age, the practices are often followed respectfully and with careful attention to detail even by those who do not typically engage in strict Jewish ritual observance. In the face of death, in its disorder and confusion, many Jewish individuals have found spiritual and psychological comfort in being guided by “the Jewish way,” familiar paths responding to death that they consider being ancient and hallowed by time.

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