Teachings: Funerals & Shloshim

The Lament: Hidden Key to Effective Listening

by Barry Bub, MD

This free example article is from the recently released 2nd edition of Seeking and Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Guidance and Development, published in honor of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Eds. Rabbis Goldie Milgram and Shohama Wiener, Reclaiming Judaism Press.
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Example Yizkor and Shloshim Ritual

At shloshim, which is usually private in my experience unless a person was very well known:

Understanding Jewish Approaches to Dying and Burial

Considerations before Dying

Writing and regularly updating a legal will, an ethical will, a living will, and power of attorney for finance and health care; be sure to specify in your living will your intention to fulfill the mitzvah of organ donation.

Acquiring the deed to your kever, grave

Genesis 3:19: “for you are dust and to dust you will return.” Jewish tradition views humanity as created from earth, so we are responsible for the rapid return of our body’s remaining nutrients to the earth to support the cycle of all living things. Most traditionally, this is done within 24 hours. It is customary to pre-arrange a grave for yourself; many do this in late mid-life. Organizing a family plot with a pre-paid perpetual care contract reduces stress on future generations and creates a genealogical cluster of grave markers that may become meaningful to those who come long after you.

A Tahara How-to Story

Long before I became a rabbi, a young social work colleague and mother of three was dying of a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. She called me one day to ask if we could meet privately because she had something to share and a favor to ask.

We met on the king-sized bed in her bedroom. She looked skeletal. Strewn upon the bed were all of her volunteer projects, tasks she kept up with until virtually her last breath. She wanted to share some of the wisdom and methods she’d gathered in her years as a social worker. What a profound honor; her ideas were very deep, and I use her methods to this day. Then came the “favor.”

Yizkor: Remembering

1. Select some photographs of those who have passed on in your family and personal life.

2. Set up a tray of water (for safety) in which you will place thick white memorial candles which are sold in glasses for each first degree relative who has died during your life time. (Siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, some also include grand parents and dear friends.) Candles which will burn for a full day are sold in Jewish specialty stores for this purpose.

3. Set the photos out around the tray.

4. The evening when Yom Kippur begins is known as Erev Yom Kippur. (Erev means "evening" and Jewish days begin at sunset) At this time, gather your family to light yarzeit, "memorial", candles for each first degree relative who has died during your life time.

Do Jewish Burials Require a Coffin?

Dear Rabbi:

My cousin who is dying of pancreatic cancer keeps talking about wanting to be buried without a coffin. Don't Jewish funerals require a plain wooden box?

Thanks for the favor of your reply, Orna

Dear Orna:

What Do Rites of Passage Accomplish?

What do Rites of Passage Accomplish? by Rabbi Goldie Milgram with Barry Bub

Rituals and their symbolic, action, and liturgical components facilitate lifecycle events or significant transitions by:

·     providing the framework of support for desired or necessary change

·     acting as speed bumps that invite reflection and integration

Why Jews Leave a Small Stone When Visiting a Grave

Why Jews Leave a Small Stone When Visiting a Grave
This article is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Michael Tayvah—friend and colleague

What to Put on Parents' Gravestone?

I have to decide by tomorrow what to put on my parent's gravestone. They are doing one together. Any ideas?

In many ways the process of deciding what to engrave on the headstone - matzeiva-  is part of the spiritual process.

Book Review: Jo Jo, A Black Bear Pennsylvania Story

This book review by Rabbi Goldie Milgram first appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Short books, available only by download, are a recent trend.