Before the Death
When a person is likely to die and is in his final hours, those present should stand around his bed and recite the vidui (confession) prayer that is recited on Yom Kippur. He should not be touched or moved at this time; he is like a candle going out, and touching him makes the candle go out faster. When those present feel that his soul is leaving his body, the Shema prayer ("Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One"), should be recited, followed by three repetitions of the verse, "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever" and seven repetitions of the verse "God is the Lord" and one recitation of "God is King, God has always been King, God will always be King." After the soul leaves the body, providing that an authorized party has established the death, the windows of the house are opened if the person died at home (if he died in a hospital, the windows of the room in which he died are opened). All of the water in vessels in the house (or in the same room) is then spilled out. The following actions should be taken as close as possible to 20 minutes after the death is established.
לחצו כאן להנחיות למקרה פטירה.
On a Weekday
The deceased's body is lowered to the floor and placed facing the doorway of the room with his legs together. His hands are placed by his side. His palms are opened and the fingers are straightened. His eyes are closed, and his body is covered by a sheet. If the deceased is a man, an effort is made to cover his body with a tallit after the threads of the fringes (tzitzit) are tied. When the body is lowered to the ground, he should be addressed by his full name and asked for forgiveness (We ask you, X son of Y, for forgiveness. All that we have done is for the sake of your dignity). Candles are lit near his head (the number of candles depends on custom, but if the candles raise the room temperature, they should not be lit). The deceased should not be left unescorted; at least one person should remain next to the deceased from the time of death until the funeral takes place, and should recite psalms for the ascent of the deceased's soul.
On a Sabbath or Religious Festival
It is forbidden to touch a dead person on the Sabbath, so moving the deceased is allowed only after a permitted item, such as a prayer book, slice of bread, and so on is placed on him. After this is done, the deceased's body is lowered to the floor and placed facing the doorway of the room with his legs together. His hands are placed by his side. His palms are opened and the fingers are straightened. His eyes are closed, and his body is covered by a sheet. When the body is lowered to the ground, he should be addressed by his full name and asked for forgiveness (We ask you, X son of Y, for forgiveness. All that we have done is for the sake of your dignity). If necessary, it is permitted to place ice on the deceased to save him from the disgrace of a bad odor. It is also permitted to tell a non-Jew to turn an air-conditioner on for this purpose. Placing a permitted item on the deceased does not make transferring the deceased to a different house permissible. If this is necessary, the transfer should be carried out by a non-Jew (an ordained rabbi should be consulted).
At the Time of Death
A memorial candle is lit in the home in which the mourners are sitting shiva. The candle is lit immediately after the death. It should be taken into account that in the cemetery at the time of the burial, the front of the upper garment worn by the mourner is torn. The custom is not to remove this garment until after the shiva.
The laws for an onen apply to mourners from the time of death until the funeral – the mourner is exempt from the commandments until the burial. The Hevra Kadisha should be contacted immediately after the death; it will help with all of the burial and funeral arrangements לחצו כאן להנחיות מפורטות.
Between Death and Burial
The period of time between a death and burial is called aninut. The term for a close relative of the deceased to whom the obligation of sitting shiva applies during this period is "onan." If the relative is in a different city or a distant country, however, and does not intend to attend the funeral when he hears about the death of his relative, only the religious laws of mourning apply to him; he is not considered an onan. In some communities, in Jerusalem, for example, the burial of a deceased person is never delayed; the burial is conducted on the same day, even if it is late at night. Only in special cases, in order to wait for relatives coming to funeral from distant locations out of respect for the deceased, can the funeral be postponed to another day.
Aninut during the Week
During aninut, a person is forbidden to perform positive commandments, including putting on phylacteries, saying the Shma prayer, etc., so that he can concentrate on the funeral arrangements (for example, an onan performs the ritual handwashing, but does not recite the blessing for it; eats and does not recite the blessings before and after eating; does not recite the blessing after defecating and urinating, and does not answer "Amen" when hearing a blessing or a recital of the Kaddish prayer. When arriving at the cemetery, he does not recite the "Who created you in judgment" prayer. The onan recites Kaddish during the funeral. An onan is forbidden to eat meat or drink wine at this time. An onan is also forbidden to bathe, have his hair cut, or greet people by saying "shalom." An onan must not leave his house other than to handle the deceased's affairs. Since close relatives are forbidden to work during the shiva period following the burial, if one of them has a business and will suffer severe financial loss by closing it during the shiva, it is permitted under Jewish law to operate the business by selling it for a short period. This should be done in consultation with a rabbi before the burial.
Aninut on the Sabbath and Religious Festivals
Aninut applies only to weekdays. A person whose close relative died shortly before the beginning of a Sabbath or religious festival, when the funeral takes place after that Sabbath or festival, is obligated by the Jewish laws applying to aninut until the Sabbath or festival begins, then recites the prayer for the afternoon preceding a Sabbath or festival. At the end of the Sabbath or religious festival, the laws for aninut again apply to him until the burial, and he therefore does not recite the evening prayer following a Sabbath or festival or the Havdalah prayer. Following the Sabbath or religious festival, he does, however recite, "Blessed are You, oh Lord, Who distinguishes between the sacred and the profane." Following the burial, he is obligated to recite the Havdalah prayer by Tuesday following a Sabbath. but only by the following day Following a religious festival, however, Havdalah can only be recited on the next day. An onan is forbidden to engage in intimate relations and to study Torah on the Sabbath or a religious festival. On the Sabbath and religious festivals, however, he is permitted to study the Torah portion for the week, the laws of mourning, and Jewish subjects that do not cause him joy, and is allowed to sing hymns for the Sabbath and religious festivals, eat meat, and drink wine.
Praying by an Onan on the Sabbath
Sitting in the synagogue – an onan should not sit in his regular seat.
Recital of Kaddish on a Sabbath during aninut depends on custom; in most Jewish communities, an onan recites Kaddish on the Sabbath.
Cohens' blessing – if the onan is a cohen, he must step outside the synagogue before the blessing begins without reciting it.
Leading prayers and being called up to the reading of the Torah – an onan is not called up to the Torah reading, and does not lead the prayers.
Aninut on Holidays
The laws of aninut apply to the intermediate days of religious festivals.
The law of aninut apply to Yom Kippur. Meat and wine must be avoided, but an onan is allowed to immerse in a mikveh before the holiday.
An onan is allowed to build a sukkah for the Sukkot festival.
An onan is forbidden to recite the Tikun prayer on the eve of Hoshanah Raba.
The aninut laws also apply on Hoshanah Raba.
On Simchat Torah, an onan can circle the Holy Ark, but is forbidden to dance.
On Simchat Torah, an onan is permitted to read and study "Vezot Habrachah," the last portion in the Torah.
Some rulings allow an onan to be called up to the Torah reading on Simchat Torah.
An onan should ask one of his family members in his household to light the candles on Hanukah. If no family members are capable of lighting the candles, the onan should light them himself, but without saying a blessing.
On the first day of Hanukah after aninut, the mourner should recite the Shehecheyanu blessing.
If the burial is after Purim, the law of aninut do not apply to the mourner.
If the burial is on the eve of Purim, the onan should listen to the recital of the Megillah. If he has enough time following the burial, he should read the Megillah again without a blessing.
An onan is forbidden to eat meat and drink wine on the eve of Purim until the burial.
If the burial is during the day, the mourner is obligated to perform all of the commandments on the eve of Purim (the Shma prayer, the Amidah prayer, and reading the Megillah). On the day of Purim, the mourner should hear the Megillah. If he has enough time following the burial, he should read the Megillah again without a blessing.
It is permitted to eat meat and drink wine on the day of Purim, even during aninut.
The regular laws for aninut apply on Shoshan Purim in cities not surrounded by a wall, and on the 14th of Adar in cities surrounded by a wall (e.g. Jerusalem).
Search for chametz – the onan should appoint a representative to search for chametz on his behalf. If he has no such representative, he should search for chametz himself, without reciting a blessing.
Nullification of hametz – an onan should nullify his chametz in the evening and in the morning and recite the "Kol Chamira" (Anything leavened) blessing.
An onan who is an eldest son is forbidden to participate in a siyum masechet (completion of a unit of Torah study) meal on the eve of Passover. He must fast on that day.
Reclining during the Passover Seder – an onan does not recline.
In counting the Omer, a mourner should count without a blessing after the burial. If there is concern about losing the count, the mourner should count without a blessing before the burial and continue counting with a blessing after the aninut period.
An onan is permitted to recite the Tikun for the eve of Shavuot.
An onan is exempt from prayers on Tisha B'Av, and does not recite the Book of Lamentations and the Kinot prayers
On the eve of a festival falling on the day before a Sabbath, if the burial is after the Sabbath, the mourner places an Eruv Tavshilin shortly before the festival begins and says the blessing for it.
If the burial is on the eve of the festival, the mourner places an Eruv Tavshilin after the burial.
Sanctification of the Moon
In cases in which the time for reciting the "Kiddush Levana" prayer (the sanctification of the moon) will pass if the onan waits until after the burial, he is allowed to recite the blessing.
If the Eighth Day after a Boy's Birth Falls when the Father is an Onan
The onan should strive to have his son circumcised after the burial. If this is impossible and someone else recites the blessing, the onan is allowed to leave the house for the brit.
An Onan as a Sandak (the person who holds the baby in a ritual circumcision)
An Onan should not be given the role of a sandak in a circumcision; however, if he was assigned the role before he became an onan, he should strive to complete all of the funeral arrangements with the Hevra Kadisha, and can then fulfill the role of a sandak.
An Onan Who is a Mohel (ritual circumciser)
An onan who is a mohel should strive to perform a circumcision after the burial. If this is impossible, he should perform the circumcision, while someone else should recite the blessing An onan who is a mohel is allowed to leave the house in order to perform a circumcision.
Redemption of the First-Born Son
The redemption ceremony for a first-born son whose father is an onan is postponed until after the burial.
A cohen who is an onan should not participate in a redemption of the first-born son ceremony unless no other cohen is available.
A Blessing for Thunder and Lightning
An onan is exempt from reciting the blessing for thunder and lightning, according to Minchat Shlomo, a book of responsa by Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach.
The Prayer before Retiring at Night and the Prayer for Sleep
An onan is obligated to receive the prayer before retiring at night and the prayer for sleep (Birkat Hamapil), according to Minchat Shlomo.
Impurity of Cohens
It is forbidden for a cohen to defile himself by coming within four amot (two meters) of the location of a dead body, or by entering a dwelling containing a dead body. If the deceased is one of a cohen's seven close relatives (wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, unmarried sister), the cohen is commanded to defile himself. This applies only when the dead body is whole; if a part of it is missing, the cohen must not defile himself, even if the missing part is laid next to the body or sewn and connected to the body. If an autopsy is performed on the deceased, his close relatives who are cohens should therefore not defile themselves for him. They are permitted to accompany the deceased to the burial if no other graves are within four amot.
Purification and Bathing
Bathing and purification of the deceased are performed by members of Hevra Kadisha in accordance with the Jewish laws and tradition. The deceased's dignity is preserved to the greatest possible extent. Purification of a male deceased is performed by men and purification of a female deceased is performed by women.
The Funeral and the Burial
The funeral procession usually starts at either the funeral chapel located at the cemetery gates or the deceased's home. Before the funeral, one or more of the relatives is asked to identify the deceased. Following the identification, a Hevra Kadisha member or a cantor recites psalms and biblical verses over the deceased. The cantor or a member of Hevra Kadisha then performs kriah - the ritual rending of the mourners' clothing, a symbol of mourning – a cut in the appropriate lapel of the garment. During Kriah, the mourners recite "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, the True Judge." The kriah is perform on the left side of the garment (the side of the heart) for those mourning for a father or mother and on the right side for other relatives.
The commandment to accompany the deceased is part of the "Love your neighbor as yourself" commandment, and is one of the commandments for which we are rewarded in both this life and the world to come. Every effort should be made to bury the deceased on the day of his death. When accompanying the deceased, it is customary to recite psalms, especially Psalm 91, "You who dwells in the shelter of the Most High." At a woman's funeral, section 31 of "Woman of Valor" is recited. Sephardic communities also recite the "Ana B'koach Gedulat Yamincha" (We implore you by the power of your right hand) and Micha 7:18 "Who is a God like You?"
It is customary to give tzedaka (charity) for the sake of the ascent of the deceased's soul, and to say, "I give this tzedakah for the sake of the soul, so that God will save it from punishment, and it will rise to the level of the righteous."
When the procession with the deceased passes by a synagogue, the custom in some communities is to stand on the deceased's bed and recite Ethics of the Fathers 3:1, "Akavya ben Mehalel said," and two verses from the "Tziduk Hadin" (Upholding the Judgment) prayer: "The deeds of the Almighty are perfect" (Deuteronomy 32:4) and "Who is great in counsel and mighty in deed" (Jeremiah 32:19). The deceased's sons or other relatives then recite Kadish.
After the burial and the filling in of the grave, the Tziduk Hadin prayer is recited, except on days on which the Tachanun (penitential) prayer is not recited, and when the burial takes place at night. Kadish is then recited.
After the recitation of Kadish and "Kel Malei Rachamim" (God full of compassion), the people attending the funeral stand in two rows. The mourners remove their shoes and pass between the rows. The people standing in the rows say, "May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." The same procedure is followed on the intermediate days of festivals, but the mourners do not remove their shoes.
Upon leaving the cemetery, those who attended the funeral wash their hands without drying them. It is customary not to hand the washing vessel to the next person after washing; it is placed upside down and the next person picks it up. It is customary to accompany the mourners from the cemetery to their home.
Being Alone with the Deceased – Identification
The cemetery contains a room for being alone with the deceased in which mourners can spend a few moments saying farewell to the deceased. A mourner who wishes to be alone with the deceased can ask the Hevra Kadisha members to leave the room. The face of the deceased is usually uncovered only in the presence of the family member asked to identify the deceased in order to verify that the right person is being buried.
(Kriah (rending of the garment
The family and close friends of the deceased assemble in the interior of the funeral chapel next to the platform from which the eulogies will be given. According to Jewish tradition, cohens attending the funeral do not stand under the same roof as the deceased unless the deceased is a first degree relative. They are therefore allotted a separate pavilion overlooking the main hall. Before the eulogies are begun, the deceased's close relatives (parents, husband/wife, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters) are asked to move for the kriah ceremony next to the bed on which the deceased has been placed. In some communities, kriah is performed as soon as the death occurs (the Yemenite community) or only after the burial (a few Sephardic communities).
The kriah ceremony is a traditional custom in which the mourners rend their clothes as a symbol of a broken heart or the empty space created in their souls by pain over the death of their relative. The source of this custom is in the Pentateuch (written Torah), when Jacob rent his clothes in mourning for his son, Joseph, who he thought was dead (Genesis 37:34). During the Talmudic period, mourners customarily rent their garments themselves immediately upon seeing or hearing of the death.
Today, in most communities, kriah is performed at the funeral chapel, usually by members of Hevra Kadisha (if possible, a man performs it for men and a woman for women), although relatives or friends can also perform it. Kriah is performed on the upper garment (shirt) above the chest. Kriah is performed on the left side (where the heart is located) on those mourning for parents and on the right side for other relatives. The rending must be significant, approximately 8.5 centimeters (3.5 inches). A Hevra Kadisha member usually performs only the beginning of the kriah, and the mourner enlarges it by pulling the lapel downward. If possible, the mourner usually stands during kriah. After kriah, the mourner recites "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, the True Judge," the blessing upholding the judgment. If the death occurred on a holiday, recital of this blessing is postponed until after the holiday. Some communities also postpone kriah until the beginning of the shiva, while others perform kriah for the death of a father or mother even on the intermediate days of a festival. Some also perform kriah for other relatives on the intermediate days of a festival. The rent garment is worn by the mourner throughout the shiva. If the tear is too large, a pin can be used to shorten it, but it must not be sewn until after the shiva; it must be visible as a symbol of mourning. At the end of mourning, the rent garment is sewn and used again in some communities (in mourning for parents, the tear is not repaired), while other communities throw it away.
After kriah and recital of the "True Judge" blessing, the bed is taken to the grave. The bed is carried by the mourners. When the grave is covered, the verse "And He, being compassionate, pardons iniquity and does not destroy, repeatedly restrains His anger, and does not exercise all of His wrath" is recited three times. Before the grave is sealed, a selection of psalms is read, followed by the Kaddish prayer and the Kel Malei Rachamim prayer.
After the Burial
Following recital of the Kel Malei Rachamim prayer, those attending the funeral lay a small stone on the grave. This custom is designed to show that the deceased's memory remains engraved in people's hearts, and that his grave is not forgotten. The deceased is then asked for forgiveness.
For a Deceased Male
"X, son of Y and Z, we ask forgiveness from you. It is possible that we have not shown you respect, but everything we did was according to the custom of our holy land. Be an advocate for the entire Jewish people in Heaven. Go in peace and rest in peace, and arise to your destiny at the end of days."
For a female
"X, daughter of Y and Z, we ask forgiveness from you. It is possible that we have not shown you respect, but everything we did was according to the custom of our holy land. Be an advocate for the entire Jewish people in Heaven. Go in peace and rest in peace, and arise to your destiny at the end of days."
The deceased is eulogized next to the grave. He is praised and described, including a list of his good qualities. Jewish law states that words should not be spared in a eulogy, and that it is even permissible to slightly exaggerate the deceased's good qualities. At the same time, excessive praise should clearly be avoided. The Torah says that Abraham "eulogized and bewailed Sarah."
If a person leaves instructions before his death that he should not be eulogized, his wish should be respected. On Rosh Hodesh, Hanukah, and Purim, during the entire month of Nisan, and during the first 13 days of the month of Sivan, it is customary to refrain from eulogies.
Following the burial, the men attending the funeral stand in two parallel rows facing each other near the exit from the cemetery. An effort should be made to have at least five men in each row. The mourners take off their shoes and pass in a group between the two rows. On the intermediate days of a festival, shoes are not taken off. Those attending the funeral comfort the mourners, saying, "May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and add no more to your grief."
People leaving the grave should return by a different route than the one by which they arrived. They take slightly more time walking back from the grave. In order to symbolize their sorrow at taking leave of the deceased, it is customary to lay a stone on the grave.
The mourners and others attending the funeral must ritually wash their hands – each hand three times. It is customary not to hand the washing vessel to the next person after washing; it is put down upside down, and another person picks it up. As an expression of grief and sorrow and a desire not to part from the deceased, it is also customary to refrain from drying hands. The water dripping from the hands reminds us of the deceased.
Jewish custom is to wrap the deceased in eight shrouds. These wrappings are sewn from white cloth. Some make them from linen (this is done by special request for additional payment). The shrouds must be free of any dirt or stain, and without knots. The shape of the shrouds and the method of wrapping the deceased in them are determined by age-old Jewish tradition. There are small differences between the practices of different Jewish communities.