1. When should the funeral occur?

The funeral should take place as soon as possible after death occurs.

2. Should the casket be open or closed?

The casket should remain closed at all times. The living should be helped to remember the departed as they were in life, not with the image of death.

3. Why should a casket be made of wood?

Jewish tradition has taught the value of wooden caskets, demonstrating that simplicity is an ideal which teaches the equality of all Jews.  You are recommended to consult with your rabbi for a personal and meaningful answer.

4. Why do mourners rip a piece of their outer garment?

The rending of the mourner’s outer garment (K’riyah) is a symbol of inner anguish and grief.

5. Why do mourners sit Shivah?

Shivah is traditionally the observance of a seven day mourning period from the day of burial. Some chose a shorter course with the support of their rabbis. This Shivah experience provides deep emotional and psychological benefit. Shivah is observed by children, siblings, spouse and parents.

6. What should visitors do at a Shivah house?

It is considered a mitzvah (good deed) for visitors to be with mourners during the Shivah period. Their role is to console the mourners and to enable them to express their sense of loss. Stories and reflections about the deceased are most helpful.

7. What is the meaning of leaving a visitation stone at a gravesite?

One of the most common Jewish cemetery customs is to leave a small stone at the grave of a loved one after saying Kaddish or visiting. Its origins are rooted in ancient times and throughout the centuries the tradition of leaving a visitation stone has become part of the act of remembrance.

The origin of this custom began long ago, when the deceased was not placed in a casket, but rather the body was prepared, washed, and wrapped in a burial shroud, or for a male, in his tallit (prayer shawl). Then the body would be placed in the ground, covered with dirt and then large stones would be placed atop the gravesite, preventing wild animals from digging up the remains. Over time, individuals would go back to the gravesite and continue to place stones, ensuring the security of the site and as a way to build up the “memory” of the loved one.

As time passed on, and carved monuments became the preferred memorial, the custom of leaving a visitation stone became a symbolic gesture-a way for the visitor to say to the loved one, “I remember you…”

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