As one of the oldest religions in practice today, Judaism has very specific, ancient burial guidelines. These customs typically begin immediately following the death of a loved one. And they don’t end until the mourning period concludes, following the Unveiling Ceremony.
It’s important for people who are adhering to these guidelines, whether by family tradition or out of respect for the individual’s religious customs, to follow these traditions closely. Each tradition carries great spiritual significance, and while there is some degree of flexibility, most of these customs have remained the same for centuries.
Unlike Christian funerals, in which family members grieve and then bury their loved ones, Jewish funerals take place before the grieving period.
Traditionally, Jewish families arrange a memorial immediately following a loved one’s death. While this decision is up to the judgement of the family and the rabbi, most families bury their loved ones within a day. This shows respect toward the deceased. These funeral ceremonies are extremely brief. In most cases, they consist only of a psalm, scripture readings and a eulogy, lasting approximately twenty minutes. During the time leading up to the burial, a shomer will always watch over the body, preventing anyone from disturbing it, and keeping the family at ease.
Jewish Burial Process
The most popular burial custom in Judaism is the earth burial. This describes the deceased’s burial in the simplest caskets. The significance of this custom is that the body can return to nature in the most organic way possible. Bodies are, however, occasionally entombed.
After those responsible lower the body into the earth, and fill the grave, the mourning family recites traditional prayers. In almost each case, they do not reveal the Jewish monument until one year following the passing.
Jewish Mourning Period
The structured grieving process in Judaism helps loved ones to overcome their loss. There are a few distinct phases of this mourning process, which ends with the reveal of the Jewish monument.
- Shiva: Beginning immediately after the burial, shiva lasts for seven days. It is often held in the home of the deceased (or another family member), giving family and friends the opportunity to pay their respects.
- Sholshim: Including the shiva, the shloshim is the 30 day period following the burial. During this time, mourners re-enter the world, resuming focus on work and school. They will still, however, not participate in fun or leisurely activities.
- Headstone Unveiling: While Jewish customs do require a marked headstone, they do not require an unveiling. Many families do, however, choose to hold an unveiling because of the sentimental value. The family of the deceased hold a ceremony to unveil the headstone to close family and friends. This usually takes place around the time of the first Yahrzeit.
- Yahrzeit: The first anniversary of one’s passing, the Yahrzeit is a time of remembrance for the family. The headstone is usually unveiled. The most prominent tradition is lighting a candle for 24 hours in honor of their memory. Many families also recite the Kaddish prayer.
Selecting Jewish Monuments
Before ordering a monument, it’s important to consider a few variables. If the deceased person was married, then their spouse might elect to order a double headstone. This ensures a pre-designated plot and headstone, and traditionally, symbolizes an eternal bond. However, this arrangement is not required by the Jewish traditions. Jewish monuments also typically have Hebrew prayers and Jewish symbols inscribed onto them.
With great respect and admiration for Jewish customs, our monument company understands how to help families honor Jewish burial traditions. We can guide you through this process in a respectful way.