Jewish traditions, rituals and customs, surviving through the millennia.
For centuries Jewish people have practiced customs and rituals that pay homage to the deceased, and help mourners cope during the intense period of grieving following a death.
Today, families choose to honor the memory of loved ones in a variety of ways. Some customs that have survived through the millennia include:
Condolence Calls–Condolence calls are a Mitzvah. By visiting the mourners, friends and family show that they recognize, understand and share in their sorrow. This time should be spent speaking of the deceased and reflecting on special memories.
Covering Mirrors–Mourners cover mirrors in the house of mourning as a symbol of humility and self-denial.
Kaddish–This ancient Aramaic prayer affirms God’s precious gift of life. Mourners recite this prayer daily starting on the day of burial and continuing through the bereavement period based on one’s relationship to the deceased. Children recite the Kaddish prayer for eleven months. Click here for the Kaddish prayer in: Hebrew, English, Transliteration
Kriah–During the seven days of Shiva, mourners tear a piece of their clothing, or wear a cut black ribbon (kriah) to symbolize their loved one being torn from the fabric of their lives and the circle of family love.
K’vurah–The turning of earth onto a casket is considered an honor and a mitzvah that the deceased can never repay. Those attending a burial may be invited to shovel earth onto the casket. Garden of Remembrance provides sacred earth from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem that is traditionally scattered on the casket at burial.
Washing Hands–It is customary for mourners to wash their hands upon leaving the cemetery as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.
Shiva–In observance of Shiva, the first seven days of intensive mourning after burial, mourners traditionally remain at home, hold memorial services, and express their grief by sitting on low stools, not wearing leather shoes and refraining from shaving. Many families choose to “sit Shiva” for a shorter time or attend their local synagogue to recite the Kaddish prayer.
Shloshim–During Shloshim, the first thirty days after the funeral, mourners traditionally refrain from socializing but still attend civic or religious functions.
Yahrzeit–Jewish tradition marks the annual Hebrew date of death, the Yahrzeit, with the bereaved reciting the Kaddish prayer and lighting a Yahrzeit candle. Click here for a personalized multi-year Yahrzeit Calendar.
Unveiling of the Memorial–The unveiling can take place at any time. Custom suggests that a memorial be erected anytime after the thirty-day Shloshim period, but preferably before the end of the first year. Click here for a copy of our Unveiling Ceremony booklet.
Tzedakah– In loving testimony to the lives of our loved ones, many pledge to give tz’dakah (contributions) to help perpetuate the ideals important to them. Through such deeds, and through prayer and remembrance, we pray that their souls be bound up in the bond of life.
Traditional Readings and Psalms – There are numerous Jewish prayers and Psalms which are traditionally recited in remembrance of loved ones. Please click on the links below.