I attended my first Jewish funeral Friday afternoon. The Hebrew word for funeral is “levaya”, which means to accompany and everything that day was very much in that beautiful, powerful sentiment. Out of respect to the family, I won’t get into any personal details but I did want to point out some of the unique traditions that stood out to me.
1. The immediate family sat physically lower than that of the other mourners during the service at the funeral home.
2. Prior to the eulogies given, the immediate family stood up and had their shirts torn by the Rabbi. This is called Kriah. This is something done in more traditional services. In less traditional, the Rabbi gives a symbolic torn ribbon to the immediate family.
3. At the grave site, all mourners shoveled dirt onto the casket. People stayed until there was nothing left to shovel, which according to a friend was a rarity and a real testament to the love for this individual. I found this part very emotional.
4. As we left the cemetery we first formed 2 parallel lines that the immediate family walked through. It is traditional to say; “HaMakom y’nachem etkhem b’tokh sh’ar aveilei Tzion v’Yrushalayim“–“May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Of course I did not know this and just stood silently.
5. For the next 7 days the family sits Shiva.