The Burial

The Tradition is that the Kaddish prayer is not recited until after the casket has been lowered and the grave filled. Dating back to Biblical times, the preference for Jewish people has been earth burial and that custom remains strong today. In some parts of the country, above ground mausoleum entombments are popular. Families who choose to have entombment should check with their rabbi as some are reluctant to officiate at a mausoleum.

Chesed Shel Emet, the ultimate act of love and kindness, is shown to the deceased when the mourners and friends participate in the actual burial. Many people symbolically participate by placing a few shovels of earth onto the casket or vault. Because this is something the deceased cannot ask mounners to do for him, cannot repay the favor, or even say “thank you” to those who saw to his/her proper burial, this becomes the ultimate, unselfish act of love and kindness. Although some find it extremely difficult and emotionally painful, the actual burial of our dead has been proven to be more psychologically beneficial than if the casket was left on top of the grave and the mourners walked away. Participating and witnessing in the burial gives closure to the relationship and affords the mourners an opportunity to do something tangible for their loved one for a final time. It also helps to lessen the chance of fantasizing about the death not being real.

After the burial, when leaving the grave, it is Traditional for those in attendance who are not mourners to form a Shura, a double line, facing each other, forming a pathway through which the mourners pass to receive words of comfort. Since Tradition teaches that we don’t offer words of consolation to mourners until after the burial, this provides the first opportunity to express the Traditional words of comfort, “May you be comforted among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” Any kind words of sympathy may be said to the mourners as they pass through the double line. There is an expression in Hebrew that translates, “Words from the heart go directly to the heart,” and any expression that is honest and meaningful is more than likely appropriate at this time.