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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Funeral Rites

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Ceremonies attending the burial of the dead. After the body had been cleansed ("ṭ ohorah") and placed on the bier (see Burial ), the funeral procession began, with the accompaniment of trumpets (Ket. 17a M. Ḳ . 27b), and of dirges and lamentations chanted by wailing women (Jeremiah 20:16 comp. 2Chronicles 35:25 ). Wherever this custom prevailed it was the duty of the relatives to provide the professional mourners (Maimonides, "Yad," Ebel, 12:1). A husband was obliged to defray the expenses of the burial of his wife in accordance with his position, and even the poorest had to provide two flute-players ("ḥ alilin") and one professional mourner ("meḳ onenet") if he refused to do so, the wife's relatives or friends could supply them themselves, and then collect the cost from the husband through the court (Ket. 46b, 48a Shulḥ an ' Aruk, Eben ha-' Ezer, 89,1, 2 Yoreh De' ah, 344,3). This custom was modified in later times, so that, instead of songs and music, addresses were delivered at the bier of a deceased person, and it was considered a commendable act to shed tears while the virtues of the pious dead were declaimed (Shab. 105b, et al. see Funeral Oration ).

The body of a learned and pious man was occasionally brought into the synagogue, where the address was delivered (Meg. 28b). The opinion of later authorities is against bringing the body of any person into the synagogue ("Ḥ okmat Adam," 155,18), so that at present the address is usually delivered either in the synagogue court ("Schulhof") or in the cemetery. The speaker must be careful not to exaggerate the praises of the deceased (Sem. 3:6 Ber. 62a). Funeral addresses should be delivered over children who have attained their sixth year (the fifth year, if they are the children of poor or old parents), and if a child has developed no particular qualities of his own, the merits of the parents may be mentioned (Sem. 3:4,5). Although it is not permitted to study the Law in the presence of a corpse (Ber. 3b comp. Rashi, ad loc. ), the speaker may quote Biblical or Talmudic passages illustrative of his remarks (Yoreh De' ah, 344,17). No address should be delivered over the body of a suicide or an excommunicate, nor should the other funeral rites be observed in these cases, except such as are for the honor of the living (Sem. 2:1 Yoreh De' ah, 345 see Suicide ).

Order of Procession.
The order of the procession varies with local custom. In some places the mourners precede the bier, and the rest of the people follow it (Yoreh De' ah, 345,3, Isserles' gloss) but more commonly the mourners follow the bier with the rest of the people ("Ḥ okmat Adam," 155,25). The place of women in the procession also depends on custom (see Burial ). Among the Sephardim, as well as among the Ashkenazim in England, women do not join in any funeral procession, while among most of the Ashkenazim in other countries they follow the bier, but must keep apart from the men (Yoreh De' ah, 359,1, 2). To accompany the dead to their last resting-place ("halwayat ha-met") is one of the important duties of the Jew. If there is no burial society in a town, all the people must leave their work on the occasion of a funeral and take part in the ceremonies. While the procession is in progress everybody must join it, even if he follow a short distance only ("four cubits," Yoreh De' ah, 361,3). Even the scholar, if there is not a sufficient number of followers (Ket. 17b), must cease from study and follow the procession but at no time should the teacher of young children be disturbed in his sacred profession (Yoreh De' ah, 361,1).

The Bearers.
While carrying the bier, the "kattafim" (bearers), who walk barefoot so that they be not tripped up by the strings of their shoes ("Yad," l.c. 4:3), recite the Ninety-first Psalm several times. Charity-boxes are passed among the followers with the cry, "Righteousness shall go before him, and shall set us in the way of his steps" ( Psalm 85:13 ). On arriving at the graveyard, the bier is placed on the ground once every four cubits until the grave is reached, when the "Ẓ idduḳ ha-Din" is recited. After the body is lowered into the grave, all bystanders say, "May he [or she] come to his [or her] place in peace." Then the grave is closed, and the same psalm is again recited, after which the mourners repeat the long "Ḳ addish." On returning from the cemetery the relatives are made to sit down, and some passages from Lamentations are recited before them. These are repeated seven times— as many times as the word "hebel" (vanity) and its plural occur in Ecclesiastes 1:2 (B. B. 100b "Yad," l.c. 12:4). It is the custom for the people to stand in two parallel rows while the mourners pass between them, and to say, "May God console you together with all those who mourn for Zion and Jerusalem." Among the Sephardim seven circuits are made around the grave before the recital of the "Ẓ idduḳ ha-Din." The ceremony is much simplified on semi-holidays, when no "Taḥ num" is said so also in the case of a child less than thirty days old. See also Burial Coffin Consolation Ḳ addish Mourning .

Bibliography : Hamburger, R. B. T. s.v. Beerdigung Benzinger, Arch. p. 23, Leipsic, 1894 Vidaver, Sefer ha-Ḥ ayyim , New York, 1901 Rabbinowicz, Der Todtenkultus bei den Juden , Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1889 Bender, in J. Q. R. 1895-96 Suwalsky, Ḥ ayye ha-Yehudi , etc., Warsaw, 1893 Perles, Die Leichenfeierlichkeiten im Nachbiblischen Judenthume , Breslau, reprinted from Monatsschrift , vol. x. Aaron Berechiah of Modena, Ma' abar Yabboḳ , Mantua, 1626 Blogg, Sefer ha-Ḥ ayyim , Hanover, 1848 Ascher, Book of Life , London.S. S. J. H. G.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Funeral Rites'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/f/funeral-rites.html. 1901.

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