Jewish funeral customs are some of the most unique and beautiful traditions in the burial industry. With a focus on a strong sense of community and mourning, these customs range from the strict preparation of the body to mourning habits like sitting shiva (a seven-day mourning period observed by the immediate family of the deceased).
In keeping with these religious rites is the chevra kadisha, a holy society (or organization) composed of individuals who oversee the process of preparing the body of the deceased for burial. Central to the concept of chevra kadisha are showing a proper level of respect for the body and ensuring that the ritual cleansing and dressing of the body is in keeping with Jewish standards.
Why Body Preparation is Important
In today’s funeral industry, body preparation tends to be a fairly invasive process. From autopsies and embalming to the thick layers of makeup put on to hold an open casket ceremony, there can be quite a bit of physical manipulation done to what remains of the person you loved.
In the Jewish tradition of chevra kadisha, this aggressive approach is set aside in favor of a more personalized purification rite. Those who are tasked with the body’s preparation are considered to be doing an incredibly good and selfless deed, as their task is one that is done for reasons of kindness.