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Encyclopedia > Chevra kadisha

A chevra kaddisha (Hebrew: holy society, better translated as "burial society") is a loosely structured but generally closed organization of Jewish men and women who see to it that the bodies of Jews are prepared for burial according to halacha (Jewish law) and are protected from desecration, willful or not, until burial. Two of the main requirements are the showing of proper respect for a corpse, and the ritual cleansing of the body and subsequent dressing for burial. Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken by more than 6 million people, mainly in Israel, the West Bank, the United States and by Jewish communities around the world. ... The word Jew ( Hebrew: יהודי) is used in a wide number of ways, but generally refers to a follower of the Jewish faith, a child of a Jewish mother, or someone of Jewish descent with a connection to Jewish culture or ethnicity and often a combination of these attributes. ... Halakha (הלכה in Hebrew or Halakhah, Halacha, Halachah) is the collective corpus of Jewish law, custom and tradition regulating all aspects of behavior. ... Underwater funeral in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea from an edition with drawings by Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou. ...

The task of the chevra kadisha is considered a laudable one, as tending to the dead is a favour that the recipient cannot return, making it devoid of ulterior motives. Its work is therefore referred to as a "chesed shel emmeth" (a good deed of trust), paraphrased from Genesis 47:29 (where Joseph promises his father to bury him in the Land of Israel). Genesis (Greek: Γένεσις, having the meanings of birth, creation, cause, beginning, source and origin), also called The First Book of Moses, is the first book of Torah (five books of Moses), and is the first book of the Tanakh, part of the Hebrew Bible; it is also the first book of... The Land of Israel (Hebrew: ארץ ישראל Eretz Yisrael) is the land that made up the ancient Jewish Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. ...

At the heart of the society's function is the ritual of tahara, or purification. The body is first thoroughly cleansed of dirt, body fluids and solids, and anything else that may be on the skin, and then it is ritually purified by immersion in, or a continuous flow of, water. Tahara may refer to either the entire process, or to the ritual purification. Once the body is purified, the body is dressed in tachrichim, or shrouds, white garments which are identical for each Jew and which symbolically recall the garments worn by the High Priest. Once the body is dressed, the casket is sealed.

The society may also provide shomrim, or watchers, to guard the body from death until burial (although in some communities this is done by people close to the departed). At one time, the danger of theft of the body was very real, now it has become a way of honoring the deceased.

A specific task for the burial society is tending to the dead who have no immediate next-of-kin. These are termed a "meth mitzvah" (a mitzvah corpse), as tending to a meth mitzvah overrides virtually any other positive Torah law. Mitzvah מצוה is the Hebrew word for commandment (plural mitzvot; from צוה, tzavah - command). The word is used in Judaism to refer to (a) the 613 commandments enumerated in the Torah (five books of Moses), or (b) any Jewish law at all. ...

Many burial societies hold one or two annual fast days and organise regular study sessions to remain up-to-date with the relevant articles of Jewish law. In addition, most burial societies also support families during the shiv'ah (traditional week of mourning) by arranging prayer services, meals and other facilities. In Judaism, Shivah is a week-long (Shivah in Hebrew means seven) period of grief and mourning for a first-degree relative. ... Jewish services are the prayers recited as part of observance of Judaism. ...

While burial societies were, in Europe, generally a community function, in America it has become far more common for societies to be organized by each synagogue. However, not every synagogue has such a society.

See also

  • ZAKA
  • Jewish Funerals, Burial and Mourning [1] web site of Kavod v'Nichum and the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington

ZAKA זקא - איתור חילוץ והצלה - חסד של אמת (an abbreviation for Identifying Victims of Disaster (in Hebrew: Zihuy Korbanot Asson)), is a community emergency response team in the State of Israel, officially recognized by the government. ...


  • Why I joined our Chevera Kaddisha

Jewish life topics
Birth: Brit milah | Zeved habat (Simchat Bat) | Hebrew name | Redemption of First-born (Pidyon Haben)
Coming of Age: Upsherin | B'nai Mitzvah
Adult: Ablution in Judaism | Prayers and blessings
Marriage: Matchmaking | Jewish view of marriage | Role of women in Judaism | Niddah | Mikvah | Tzeniut
Judaism : Religious life | Observing the commandments | Torah study (Weekly Torah portion) | Talmud study (Daf Yomi) | Jewish holidays
Cultural: Israel | Immigration into Israel | Charity
Items of religious significance: Tzitzit | Tallit | Tefillin | Yarmulke-Kippa | Menorah
Death : Chevra kadisha | Shiv'ah | Kaddish | Tehillim | Yahrzeit | Yizkor edit

  Results from FactBites:
JewishJournal.com (1204 words)
The story of Chevra Kadisha Mortuary and its significance to Los Angeles' observant community is an ongoing saga of crime, punishment and redemption surrounding an institution that deals with one of the most holy times in the Jewish life cycle.
Chevra Kadisha was temporarily closed in December 1997 just before its founder, Zalman Manela, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading no contest to charges of forgery and grand theft.
Chevra Kadisha was allowed to reopen in February as long as Manela was uninvolved in the business and the facility properly placed pre-need funds in trust according to a state-imposed schedule, among other conditions.
  More results at FactBites »



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