The Jewish religion has certain customs and traditions regarding the preparation of a decedent for burial. Unlike many other faiths, the first rule of preparation for a decedent that is of the Jewish faith is that there be no embalming. Embalming is a process of preservation involving the invasive use of chemicals that is considered a “desecration” of the body that God created which is considered a sin.
The options for a Jewish family include either the funeral home preparing the deceased by having our directors bathe and dress the deceased in either clothing the family has provided or the traditional Jewish burial garment known as “tahrichim” or a shroud.
The other, more observant manner of preparation is the ceremonial washing known as “Tahara”. This washing is performed by a sacred burial society known as a “Chevra Kadisha”. Their mission is to see to it that Jewish people are prepared in accordance with the way G-d intended Jewish people to be prepared. At our request, they will dispatch a team of men or women, depending upon the gender of the decedent, to our chapel where they bathe the decedent in our mikvah reciting psalms and prayers to elevate the soul.
Where more reform families are less likely to choose this washing, people who are very observant will insist upon it. The reason they do is the belief that the soul, upon death, will ascend to heaven to be judged by G-d. This judgement is impacted favorably by having been prepared in accordance with Jewish tradition. The soul is not only being judged, it is also acting as an “ambassador” for those left behind. The more favorable the judgment, the better things will go for the family and friends of the decedent.
In many instances, when reform families learn the meaning behind these beliefs, they choose to have Tahara performed.