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The Jewish faith

Since humans are formed in the image of God, a dead body should not be changed.

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The body shall return to the earth it came from. Jewish tradition is therefore against cremation, organ donation and chemical preservation of the body. The body is washed by ritual experts - in Oslo by members of the Jewish funeral association Chevra Kadisha - and is laid in a simple, unpainted wooden casket and buried as soon as possible.

When relatives hear of the death of one of their close ones, they rip their outer clothing from the neckline down to the heart. The torn clothing symbolizes mourning, that the hearts of the family are torn. The tear symbolizes also that our bodies are like an outer garment for the soul: Death can tear what is external, while the eternal soul lives on.

Jewish funeral ceremonies are simple, consisting of Kaddish prayer, psalms and a memorial speech. Kaddish is a praising of God representing ideas of continuity. The procession normally stops 10 times on the way from the funeral chapel to the grave - once for each strophe of the psalm that is sung. Flowers are not common at a Jewish burial, but donations are often given to charity in memory of the deceased. At the grave, the male mourners cast three shovels of earth on the casket. When the mourners leave the gravesite, they wash their hands to symbolically dispel the spirits of uncleanness that accompany death.

There are several periods of mourning in the time after the burial. Shiva lasts one week after the burial. During the first three days, the family mourns alone, sitting on low chairs. During the last four days, they are visited by friends who bring gifts of food and express their sympathy. Sheloshim lasts for three weeks after shiva. The family doesn't cut their hair or shave, but otherwise can go about their normal business. Kaddish prayer is recited each day. During the next ten months, Kaddish prayer is recited every Sabbath in memory of the deceased. Exactly one year after death (yahrzeit), a grave monument is unveiled. The family meets at the grave and places little stones on the top of the gravestone as signs of respect. In Norway, families normally don't visit the grave until this day.

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world that He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

– Mourners' Kaddish

Published Mar. 24, 2020 12:24 PM - Last modified Dec. 14, 2020 9:01 AM