Bereavement

INFORMATION FOR ORGANISING A FUNERAL
Shul Office: 021 439 7543               Chevrah Kadisha: 082 570 8833 / 0825708834

In accordance with our traditions the deceased must be respectfully brought to eternal rest as soon as possible and in the most dignified manner.

Contacting the Chevra Kadisha.
This should be done as soon as possible whatever the time of day or night. If the deceased is a male his Talllis should be given to the Chevra Kadisha who will also need to know if he was a Kohen, Levi or Yisrael. For males or females, the Hebrew (or Yiddish) name and the name of the deceased’s father is required. The Chevra Kadisha will also need to know if the deceased had a reserved grave and if the surviving spouse/family member wishes to have one reserved at this time. The deceased’s I.D. book is also a requirement. In cases of doubt, older family members, a Marriage document or the Rabbi should be consulted.

Arranging the time of the Funeral.
This is done with the Chevrah Kadisha. They will give you a proposed time which can only be confirmed once the Rabbi has been consulted. Once this has been confirmed you can let relatives and friends know and if you wish and time allows, an advert placed in the press.

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Minimising Delays
The deceased should be buried as soon as possible, preferably the same day. When children live overseas and are attending the funeral, it must be emphasized that it is imperative to arrive as soon as possible. An unavoidable delay should never exceed 72 hours.

Prayers
Prayers should take place in the home of the deceased. If this is not possible, other arrangements can be made. Prayers are held in the evening commencing at Mincha time. (Time varies according to season somewhere between 5:45 p.m.and 6:00p.m). The family can decide on the number of days they wish to hold prayers. The main purpose of prayers is to obviate the need for the male mourner to leave the House of Mourning during Shiva. When there are no prayers at home, the mourner is advised to attend Shul Services in order to recite Kaddish. Where the deceased or the family has lived a devout life, week-long Prayers are entirely appropriate. Assembling a Minyan will be the family’s responsibility.

Yahrtzeit Candles
A seven-day supply to last throughout Shiva is required. No blessing is recited. The first light may be kindled immediately or, alternatively, upon returning from the cemetery.

Arranging The Home For Prayers
We daven facing North (Jerusalem). Separate areas should be designated for men and women. A small table is placed on the North wall with two candles for the service (Shabbat candlesticks are fine) and the Yahrtzeit candle. Female mourners should be on the women’s side of the room but closest to the men so that they can participate meaningfully and hear what is being said. Contrary to popular myth, there is no reason why female mourners should be made to feel awkward and uncomfortable by sitting alone amongst the men.

The requirement is to sit on something low, close to the floor, thus showing that we’ve been “grounded” by our loss. Any seat less than 30cm (12 inches) off the ground is adequate. It may be a soft seat. The cushions of one’s couch can be removed.

Prayer Books
These will be provided by the Shul and will be brought to the home by either the Rabbi or Chazan.

Who Is A Mourner?
Principal mourners are those who have lost a father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, son or daughter. All other family members are not required to sit Shiva. Obviously they will grieve with you but their main obligation is not to do anything which might offend the sensitivities of the principal mourners.

Mirrors
Mirrors and all reflective glass (e.g. TV) should be covered. Photographs, portraits and any artwork with faces should be covered, removed or turned where the face is not visible.

The Funeral
The family should arrive at Pinelands Cemetery 30 minutes before the funeral is scheduled to begin. They sit in a secluded area until the funeral is about to begin when they enter the Ohel/Hall where the ceremony is held.As is customary for a man to cover his head, so it is for a woman to do the same. She should also wear appropriate clothing, not mini-skirts or slacks.

Should the Rabbi not have known the deceased personally, then at some stage before the funeral an articulate family member should give him a brief outline of his/her positive character traits and noteworthy achievements to enable the Rabbi to personalize the service in a meaningful way.

Viewing The Body
Jews do not view the body out of respect to the dignity of the deceased. Psychologically, it is far better to remember our loved ones in good times rather than be haunted by a deathly image.

Kriyah – Rending The Garments
This is a traditional manner in which we can appropriately give vent to our grief. By tearing the clothing over the heart, we show that our heart is truly torn by this traumatic loss. This Mitzvah applies to both men and women equally. It is only that, for women, it is done privately before the service begins. For this reason female mourners must dress accordingly. Wear a blouse that you won’t mind tearing and have a T-shirt or spencer on underneath to ensure that there is no exposure. Whether you have seen kriyah performed on women previously or not, please be assured that this is a time-honoured tradition which should most definitely be observed by all mourners..

The Procession
It is considered a great honour to escort the deceased to their final resting place. A very short list of pallbearers consisting of family (and/or the very closest friends) is compiled at home. These are people whom you know will be present at the funeral. This short list may range from 6 to 16 gentlemen. Kohanim and principal mourners are not called. Grandsons of mature age should be called, as should sons-in-law. If there are 2 groups, the Funeral Director will call for the second group to come forward at the appropriate time. The pallbearers should be of the Jewish faith.

Kaddish
This most sacred prayer expressing our faith in G-d even during this time of sorrowful loss is the obligation of the sons of the deceased. Where there is no son, other principal mourners or next of kin should recite Kaddish. Bear in mind that this Mitzvah applies not only to the funeral and prayers, but also for the duration of the year on a daily basis (11 months). The Kaddish is available in English phonetics from the Shul or the Chevra
Kadisha. Even if one was not previously a Shul-goer, this is an excellent opportune time to become one.
During the year you will become more comfortable in Shul by attending daily services. It is the finest memorial a son can do for his father or mother. The Rabbi will be happy to help anyone who feels awkward about this. Our daily ‘minyannaires’ are famous for their friendliness. Please don’t be bashful. Within a matter of days, you will feel absolutely at home, morning and evening.. If you don’t have Tefillin for the morning service, don’t worry. There are spare sets at Shul just for you and someone will be happy to “show you the ropes.” Women who would like to do something as meaningful as Kaddish are invited to consult the Rabbi. He will have many suitable suggestions which are as appropriate for a woman as saying Kaddish is for a man.

The Mourners’ Meal
Upon returning from the cemetery, the first meal the family partakes of is, traditionally, provided by neighbours or friends. Round foods are the custom, usually bagels and hard-boiled eggs. These symbolise the Cycle of Life.

Sitting Shiva
We sit Shiva out of respect for our loved one.

The seven-day Shiva period corresponds to the spiritual journey the departed soul is currently experiencing. By the family observing Shiva, we assist the Neshoma (soul) in this transition.

It is psychologically advisable for the bereaved to sit Shiva because it helps us work through the grief process. Spending these early days together, helps a family cope infinitely better now and in the long term. Sitting together and remembering, shedding a tear, supporting one another is all part of an important rite of passage. From a mental health perspective, sitting Shiva is positively therapeutic.

Family members who live elsewhere, may go home at night but should still spend the day with the family in the House of Mourning. Shiva is observed for seven days or part thereof. The day of the funeral is counted as the first day and on the seventh day Shiva ends early just after the morning service. On the seventh day people may return to work. For example, if the funeral was at any time on Wednesday, Shiva would end on Tuesday morning.

Personal Grooming
After the funeral until the end of Shiva (with the exception of Shabbat) mourners should not wear leather shoes. From the time of death and throughout Shiva, male mourners may not shave and female mourners should not wear make-up. As for bathing, Jewish law distinguishes between hygiene and pleasure.

Friday Night In Shul
The male mourners should be in Shul for Mincha in order to say Kaddish. Thereafter they step outside into the lobby at the entrance of the Shul. The Shammas will bring them back in after L’cha Dodi when the Rabbi and Gaboim will come down and extend the traditional wishes of consolation. The female mourners may also be in Shul for Mincha and then wait upstairs just outside the door from where they will be brought back into Shul at the same time as the men, by the Rabbi’s wife or representative.

The family then returns to the seats which are reserved for mourners on that Shabbat.

On Shabbat mourners should NOT wear the torn shirt or non-leather shoes and may sit on regular chairs and leave the home.

Shabbat
On Fridays one sits Shiva until the late afternoon and gets up in time to change and prepare for Shabbos. When Shiva does not end on Saturday, it resumes on Saturday night immediately after Shabbos.

We wish you long life.

May Hashem Comfort You Together With All The Other Mourners For Zion And Jerusalem.

With thanks to the Sydenham Highlands North Congregation, Johannesburg