Introduction] When & Where] The Funeral Procession] The Funeral Home] The Rending Ritual] Eulogies] Kaddish] Mourner's Kaddish] Walking to the Grave] Burial] Kaddish HaGadol] El Malei Rachamim] Request for Forgiveness] Leaving the Grave] Leaving the Cemetery]
After k'riah, the deceased is carried into the main sanctuary of the funeral home, covered in shrouds and a tallit for a male, and shrouds and a parochet, or white sheet, for a female. The officiator of the funeral recites the Mishnah from Pirkei Avot (Chapter III, Mishnah I) that deals with the gap that separates between life and death:
Akavyah ben Mahalel said: Reflect upon three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you will have to render account and reckoning. From where you came – from a putrid drop. Where are you going – to a place of dust, and of decay. Before whom you will have to render account and reckoning – Before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Some chevra kadishas repeat this Mishnah each time the bier is moved. The passages 'Where you are going' and 'From where you came' are generally recited quietly because of their content.
The deceased's friends and relatives now proceed to eulogize him – they praise him and his lifework, relate stories about his life, and express grief over his passing. Either one or several people – males or females, relatives, friends, teachers, or commanders – may deliver the eulogies. It is customary to refrain from eulogies at times of year that are characterized by rejoicing (Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Purim, Intermediate Days of Pesach and Sukkot, the entire months of Nissan and Tishrei and the first thirteen days of the month of Sivan). On these days, one instead delivers brief 'departing words' to the deceased that for all practical purposes do not differ from a eulogy. Though no rules govern the length of the eulogy, one should be considerate both of the chevra kadisha as well as of the friends and family attending the funeral.
Tzidduk Hadin (Justifying the judgement) After the eulogies (some have the custom to do this before the eulogies) a member of the chevra kadisha recites the prayer of Tzidduk Hadin. This prayer, written in the Talmudic period, emphasizes man's worthlessness compared with God's majesty. Through it, the mourner declares his acceptance of God's harsh decree. On days on which one refrains from eulogizing, one generally omits this prayer. In certain places this prayer is recited only after the burial.
The Tzidduk Hadin prayer customarily recited in Ashkenazic communities (based on verses from Deuteronomy 32:4, I Samuel 2:6, Psalms 119 & 137, & Jeremiah 32:19)
Some people skip the first verses and only begin here:
The Rock! – Perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a God of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He.
The Rock! – Perfect in every work. Who can say to Him, ‘what have you done?' He rules below and above, brings death and resuscitates, brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Rock! – Perfect in every deed. Who can say to Him, 'What do you do?' O He who says and does, do undeserved kindness with us. In the merit of him [Isaac] who was bound like a lamb, hearken and act.
O righteous one in all His ways, O Rock who is perfect – slow to anger and full of mercy – take pity and please spare parents and children, for yours, O master, are forgiveness and mercy.
Righteous are you, God, to bring death and to resuscitate, for in Your hand is the safekeeping of all spirits. It would be sacrilegious for You to erase our memory. May your eyes mercifully take cognizance of us, for Yours, O master, are mercy and forgiveness.
A man, whether he be a year old, or whether he lives a thousand years, what does it profit him? As if he has never been shall he be. Blessed is the true judge, who brings death and resuscitates.
Blessed is He, for His judgment is true, He scans everything with His eye, and He recompenses man according to His account and His just sentence. All must give His name acknowledgment.
We know, God, that Your judgment is righteous, You are righteous when You speak and pure when You judge: and there is no complaining about the attribute of Your judgment. Righteous are You, God, and Your judgments are fair.
O true judge, judge of righteousness and truth. Blessed is the true judge, for all of His judgments are righteous and true.
The soul of all the living is in your hand, righteousness fills your right hand and your power. Have mercy on the remnant of the sheep of your hand, and say to the angel [of death], 'Hold back your hand!'
Great in counsel and abundant in deed, Your eyes are open upon all the ways of the children of man, to give man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.
To declare that God is just, my rock in whom there is no wrong.
God gave and God took, blessed be the name of God.
He, the merciful one, is forgiving of iniquity and does not destroy, frequently withdrawing His anger, not arousing His entire rage.
After the eulogies, the male mourners (father, husband, brother, son) and in some communities, also the female mourners (mother, wife, sister, daughter) recite Kaddish for the deceased. (Someone whose parents are both alive customarily does not recite Kaddish for a deceased relative.) Further on in this pamphlet, you will find more details about the Kaddish prayer – its content, translation, status, and manner of recitation.
May His great name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed.
May He give reign to His kingship and cause His salvation to sprout, and bring near His Messiah
in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire family of Israel, swiftly and soon. Now respond: Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the name of the holy one,
Blessed is He beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. Now respond: Amen.
According to Nusach Ashkenaz and Achid:
May there be abundant peace from heaven and life, upon us and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.
According to Nusach Edot Hamizrach:
May there be abundant peace from heaven, life, prosperity, salvation, consolation, recovery, redemption, forgiveness, atonement, wealth, and salvation, upon us and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.
He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.
Walking to the Grave
Generally, the cemetery is in walking distance from the funeral home. When it isn’t, however, a procession of cars follows the hearse from the funeral home to the cemetery. All the cars participating in this procession customarily turn on their car lights even during the day to indicate that they are participating in a funeral procession. Upon arriving at the cemetery, the people accompanying the deceased follow the hearse by foot. The pace is generally slow so one should come properly equipped: with a hat and water bottle in the summer, and with warm clothing in the winter. There is generally a way to reach the gravesite by car, so if elderly or infirm people plan to attend the funeral, one should inquire about this in advance.
Though one accords the deceased respect by accompanying his bier to the grave, the custom in certain places is that a male's direct offspring (children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren) do not follow his bier, but remain behind in the funeral home. Anyone burying in Jerusalem or elsewhere where this is the custom, who wishes to accompany his father or grandfather to his final resting place, can do so by walking 'before the bier' instead of following 'behind'. In other words, direct offspring walk first in the procession (with the member of the chevra kadisha who is leading the way), the bier follows behind them, and behind it all the rest of the people accompanying the deceased. Upon arriving at the gravesite, the deceased's children will be asked to stand aside until after the grave is filled with earth. Kohanim are halachically prohibited from coming within four amot (two meters) of the grave, so they stand back on the 'kohanim paths', the outermost paths in the cemetery. If the deceased himself was a kohen (and you informed the chevra kadisha of this), he will generally be buried in the 'kohanim section' which is located adjacent to this path, in order to enable his relatives who are kohanim to attend the burial and family memorials.
Upon leaving the funeral home, it is customary, in certain communities, to break an earthenware vessel to symbolize the fragility of life, and to scatter coins signifying a departure from the material world.
When the hearse has driven as close as it can to the grave, pallbearers carry the bier, upon which the deceased rests, the remainder of the way. On the way to the grave, the procession stops several times to recite selected verses and to allow the mourners (if they can) to recite Kaddish. The chevra kadisha officiator leads all those accompanying the deceased in reciting Psalm 91, a psalm that describes how man's trust in God enables him to conquer his fear of death. At a funeral for a woman, the 31st chapter in Proverbs, describing the Eshet Chayil, is also recited. Most chevra kadishas halt three times to recite Kaddish and these verses. Some, however, follow the Talmudic custom to stop seven times, corresponding to the seven days of creation.
Psalms 91 – Recited for a man or woman:
May the pleasantness of my Lord, our God be upon us – may He establish our handiwork for us; our handiwork may He establish.
Whoever sits in the refuge of the most high – he shall dwell in the shadow of the Almighty,
I will say of God, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, I will trust in Him.'
For He will deliver you from the ensnaring trap, from devastating pestilence.
With His pinion He will cover you, and beneath His wings you will be protected; shield and armor is His truth.
You shall not fear the terror of night; nor of the arrow that flies by day;
Nor the pestilence that walks in gloom; nor the destroyer who lays waste at noon.
Let a thousand encamp at your side and a myriad at your right hand, but to you it shall not approach. You will merely peer with your eyes and you will see the retribution of the wicked.
Because [you said]: 'You, God are my refuge', you have made the most high your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.
He will charge His angels for you, to protect you in all your ways.
On palms they will carry you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
Upon the lion and the viper you will tread; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.
For He has yearned for me and I will deliver Him; I will elevate Him because He knows my name.
He will call upon me and I will answer Him, I am with Him in distress; I will release Him and I will bring Him honor.
With long life will I satisfy Him, and I will show Him my salvation.
With long life will I satisfy Him, and I will show Him my salvation.
Proverbs 31 – Recited only when the deceased is female:
Who can find a woman of worth for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts in her, and he shall have no lack of gain
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is yet night, and gives food to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considers a field, and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with strength, and she makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is good: her candle does not go out by night.
She lays her hands to the distaff, and her palms hold the spindle.
She stretches out her palm to the poor; she reaches forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household for all her household is clothed with scarlet.
She makes herself coverlets; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes garments, and sells them; and delivers girdles to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom; and on her tongue is a Torah of steadfast love.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: many daughters have done virtuously, but you excel them all.
Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her deeds praise her in the gates.
Upon completion, the mourners once again say the Mourner’s Kaddish
Further on in this pamphlet, you will find more details about the Kaddish prayer – its content, translation, status, and manner of recitation.