Death & Mourning 101

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Funeral and Burial

Mourners are greeted by those attending the funeral, and tearing (kriah) of a garment or ribbon is repeated. The funeral has a small number of fixed liturgical elements, including the short prayer El Maleh Rachamim ("God full of compassion"), and usually includes psalms and a hesped, or eulogy. The service may take place in a funeral home, in a synagogue, or at the graveside. The burial is framed by other liturgical elements, including the recitation of a special version of the Kaddish prayer, often thought of as the "mourner's prayer." Mourners and others participate in covering the casket with dirt. Mourners leave the graveside first, and others say to them the traditional words, "May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."

The Mourning Period

death and mourning quizThe Mourning Period is successively less intense; many Jews and non-Jews view the Jewish process of mourning as psychologically wise. Its traditional elements are: shiva, seven days during which mourners are visited at home by family and community, and participate in prayer services held at home; sheloshim, the first 30 days of mourning, during which mourners return to their normal routine but refrain from many customary pleasurable activities; and, for those who have lost a parent, 11 months of aveilut (mourning), during which Kaddish is recited daily.

A tombstone may be erected or uncovered at any time; an "unveiling" is often done a year after the death. The anniversary of death, or yahrzeit, is observed each year, and the deceased is remembered four times annually during Yizkor services.

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