When planning a loved one’s funeral, many people may automatically assume that staging the decedent’s attire is necessary for burial. Depending on the religion, this may be the case, as many faiths bury the departed in beloved or formal articles of clothing and accessories. However, Jewish funeral customs establish that burial garments be simple and uniform for all.
Before dressing, there is a customary, multi-step process to prepare the body for burial after death. Succeeding the cleansing of the body during a ritual bath, the deceased are wrapped in a traditional shroud or tachrichim. The shroud consists of a shirt, pants, head covering, belt and for some, a long jacket known as a kittel (if the kittel was worn by the deceased on Yom Kippur or Passover, it would be provided by the family), and a wrapping sheet.
These coverings are said to resemble the plain linen clothing worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The shroud is a gauzy fabric, handmade from muslin or linen and generally white, with no fasteners (buttons, snaps, zippers) of any kind. There are also no pockets, as it believed that carrying earthly possessions has no value in the afterlife. In continuing with this belief, no jewelry, accessories or adornments of any kind are worn. Lastly, men or women (if they wore one) may be buried with a kipah and prayer shawl tallit, with one of the fringes or tzisit cut to represent that death ends the individual’s obligation to perform Mitzvot.
This minimalistic burial symbolizes equality and purity. Both represent the belief that the wealthy or poor are equal and that the body comes from the earth and therefore, is returned to the earth after death.
The shroud can be provided by the memorial chapel as part of the funeral preparations. Tallit or kipot may also be provided if necessary, but usually will be dropped off by family members prior to the preparation of the body.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult. Being informed can help to alleviate any additional burden when death occurs. We are here to assist with any questions pertaining to burial garments or any other aspect of funeral planning.