Dignity for the Body; Peace for the Soul
Introduction to Jewish Burial Customs
What happens to the soul after death should make all the difference in your burial decisions.
When a person dies, the soul (neshama) hovers around the body. The neshama is the essence of the person — the consciousness and totality; the thoughts, deeds, experiences, and relationships. The body was its container, while it lasted, and the neshama, now on its way to the Eternal World, refuses to leave until the body is buried. In effect, the totality of the person who died continues to exist for a while in the vicinity of the body. A Jewish funeral is therefore most concerned with the feelings of the deceased, not only the feelings of the mourners. How we treat the body and how we behave around the body must reflect how we would act around the very person himself at this crucial moment.
The Role of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society)
Preparing a fellow Jew for burial is an especially great mitzvah.
Throughout Jewish History, being a member of the Chevra Kadisha has been a great honor. Members of the Burial Society are selected for their character, integrity, and personal devotion to Jewish tradition. These men and women are on call 24 hours a day to perform a tahara and to ensure that the laws and traditions of Jewish burial are executed properly. Their greatest concern is the sensitive care, modesty, and dignity of the deceased. Men care for men, women care for women, Jew cares for fellow Jew. There is no better way to ensure the dignity of the body than to entrust its preparation to the Chevra Kadisha.