How is the Jewish death and mourning process different than that of other peoples?
The Jewish religion deals with death and mourning in two parts. First, there is a focus on Kavod Ha-Met, or honoring the dead, and rituals geared towards this are all about being respectful to the deceased. Then, equally important, is how Judaism emphasizes the importance of Nihum Avelim, or comforting the living.
What is Kavod Ha-Met?
Kavod Ha-Met is the act of honoring and respecting the dead. This is done through various rituals, such as not leaving the body alone, not allowing someone to eat or drink in front of the body to not risk insulting them, and not desecrating the body by autopsy or cremation.
Instead the bodies of the deceased should remain pure and preserved with simple garments and decor. It is also important to have a funeral and burial in a timely manner.
Are same day burials a requirement?
Though same day burials are customary according to the Torah as an aspect of Kavod Ha-Met, there are a few exceptions. It is equally important to show respect for the dead by making sure that the funeral is not rushed before one has the time to get a proper shroud or casket for the deceased, and that you leave enough time for close relatives’ arrival. Burials also do not take place on the Sabbath and Yom Tov holidays, and are even excused if in the case of any government regulations that require a delay.
How do you take care of the deceased?
A significant part of Jewish customs is in showing respect for the deceased. The body can never be left alone before the burial, so a shomerim sits on guard with the dead until then. To prepare for the burial, the deceased’s body is thoroughly cleaned and wrapped in a shroud. It is also important for the dead to be close to the earth when they are buried, so extra measures are taken to drill holes into the casket to guarantee that the body will come in contact with the earth.