When the void left by a loss is gaping and new,
Jewish tradition is paved with guidance for mourners. A final goodbye
in Judaism is composed of two themes: ka-vode hamet - treating
the deceased with dignity and nihum ah-vay-leem - comforting
The first motions of mourning are focused on
getting ready for the burial. At every turn Judaism fends for the
honor of the deceased, based on the belief that the body was created
in God’s image and once held a soul.
While Jewish funeral, burial and mourning rites
are dignified, they are aimed at keeping expenses at a minimum in
consideration of those who cannot afford a lavish sendoff. Pageantry
is shunned to promote healing and to prevent the survivors from
turning to the dead as a holy intermediary deserving of worship.
Survivors are helped through the mourning process
via the wealth of mourning traditions. Personal mourning observances
are restrictive at first, forcing a mourner to confront sadness and
loss. The laws and customs gradually evolve as time passes,
lessening, to urge a mourner to create a renewed connection with life.
Community involvement plays a large role in
nihum ah-vay-leem, comforting the bereaved. A community
surrounds the bereaved, visiting during the first
seven-day period of mourning and answering amen to the Kaddish,
mourning prayer. Kindness and concern for a mourner, an ahvell,
ranks high among the obligations of a Jew.
The wealth of Jewish customs and laws steady a
mourner through the emotional hurricane of loss.