Jewish Customs and Traditions


Illness Prayers

Every Friday evening at Shabbat services, the rabbis at Temple Beth El offer a prayer for those who are ill called a Mi Shebeirach.  If you or a family member is ill, we would like to include you in our communal prayer.

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Visiting the Sick – Bikkur Cholim

In the Talmud, it says that one who visits the sick eliminates one-sixtieth of their pain. Therefore, visiting the sick is an important value at Temple Beth El. The clergy are available to offer support and make regular visits to members of the Temple Beth El congregation and their loved ones who are hospitalized. When the hospital asks for religious and synagogue affiliation during registration, let them know if you are a member of Temple Beth El.

Temple Beth El also has a Bikkur Cholim group made up of caring individuals who make calls and visit fellow congregants in the hospital, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, the homebound, and those with hospice care.

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Hospice

When medical intervention in treating disease has run its course, many individuals choose to participate in Hospice care when making end-of-life decisions. When hospice care has been arranged, the rabbis will make regular visits to Temple Beth El members and their loved ones, either at home or at an in-patient treatment facility to offer counseling and help ease your loved one and family through this difficult process. Along with the clergy, there is a member of the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service team of social workers, who is available to anyone who will be interred at the Beth El Mausoleum to answer questions or to help your family through this difficult time. To get in touch with our Social Worker, please contact our Mausoleum Advisor at 561-391-8901.

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Funeral Arrangements

Making arrangements in advance of a loved one’s passing with a funeral home and the Beth El Mausoleum is strongly encouraged. The following information will guide you in making these arrangements.

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Contact the Mausoleum Office

When an individual dies, one should immediately contact the Mausoleum office so that funeral details can be worked out. If your loss takes place after business hours or on the weekend, call the office at 561-391-8901 to get in touch with a Mausoleum Advisor. If you are a member of Temple Beth El, call the Temple office at 561-391-8900 and press “8” to get in touch with a rabbi regardless of the time.

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Prayers in the Immediacy of Death

There are traditional prayers that are recited in the aftermath of a death. If you choose, the rabbis will come to offer these prayers for you on behalf of your loved one. Some families choose simply to be alone together. Once you get in touch with us, the rabbi will arrange a time to come to meet you.

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Calling the Funeral Home

If you have not made arrangements in advance, the next step will be to contact a funeral home. The rabbis or Mausoleum Advisor can help you in selecting a funeral home which will make arrangements to take custody of the body and for the preparation for the funeral service.

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Preparing for the Funeral

Your funeral home may have many questions for you regarding your choices for the funeral service and the entombment. The Temple Beth El clergy and Mausoleum Advisor are here to help you understand the process and assist you in making choices.

Jewish custom dictates that when a loved-one dies, a funeral service should be observed as soon as possible, often within 24-48 hours. Also, funeral services cannot take place on Shabbat, Jewish holidays or festivals.

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The Casket

Traditionally, Jews do not utilize an ornate or elaborate casket to express the notion that all are equal in death. When a loved one is laid to rest in the Beth El Mausoleum, there is a requirement that a metal casket must be used.  Your funeral director will guide you on the specific requirements and your choice of casket.

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Flowers

Flowers are not a traditional part of Jewish custom. This relates to the idea that a Jew should be buried in a simple manner. Instead of flowers, many choose to make a charitable contribution in your loved one’s honor or memory.

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Open Casket

Judaism is traditionally opposed to the idea of having an open casket during the funeral service. However, if family and close friends would like to view the body of the deceased prior to the service, it is possible to arrange this.

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Preparing the Body

Prior to being laid in the casket, the body is traditionally washed and blessed. This process is known as tahara -- cleansing. The people who perform this ritual are members of a special group called a Chevreh Kadisha Society. These individuals also see to it that body is dressed for the burial. After the body is traditionally washed and blessed, the body is prepared and dressed in white linen garments called tachrichim. Traditionally, a Jewish person is laid to rest in this simple, inexpensive white shroud and covering without pockets. One may also opt to place the deceased’s talit (prayer shawl) over the body with one of the fringes cut off.

For those whom these traditions may not seem appropriate, a loved one may be laid to rest in his/her own clothing. Once the coffin is closed, it is traditionally not reopened for viewing by the public.

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Cremation

In modern times, many choose cremation.  Reform Judaism respects an individual’s right to make the choices that are most appropriate for him/her. Sometimes a loved one may make choices that conflict with our sensibilities, and it is still appropriate to honor your loved one’s wishes.  Judaism also teaches…“From dust we are formed, and to dust we will return.”

The funeral home can arrange for cremation. When a loved one is cremated, it is appropriate to conduct a memorial service as part of the funeral arrangements.

In addition, while some choose to have the ashes scattered in a place of particular meaning to the family, others choose to place the remains in a niche in a mausoleum. At the Beth El Mausoleum niches are available for those who wish to reposit cremated remains.

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Rending a Garment

When a death occurs, Jewish law teaches that a garment be torn as a sign of mourning. This ritual is referred to as keria, which literally means “tearing,” and is representative of the tear in our hearts, and as an outward symbol of grief and pain. Keria normally takes place immediately before the funeral service begins. The officiating rabbi leads the family in the recitation of a special keria blessing and then helps with the tearing of the garment or the black ribbon that is attached to one’s shirt and torn in lieu of the garment.  Members of the immediate family – parents, children, siblings, and spouse – participate in keria. Siblings, parents, and spouses tear over the right side, and children tear over the left side as a symbol of the special love shared by a child toward a parent.

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The Funeral Service

The funeral service consists of two parts: words spoken in honor of the deceased, and the entombment service. It is customary at a Jewish funeral to read passages from the Bible and other meaningful readings, which seek to honor the person who has died. These passages are also meant to offer consolation to those who survive.

The most important part of a funeral service is the eulogies offered in honor and memory of the deceased. A eulogy may be offered by the person officiating at the service and may also be offered by loved ones who knew the person well. There is no obligation for family members to offer a eulogy, however many find the process of composing and offering thoughts and remembrances to be healing and cathartic.

The service concludes with the chanting of the prayer, El Maley Rachamim, which speaks of God’s compassion, and prayers for the deceased to be comforted and to rest in peace.

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Pallbearers

You may choose pallbearers to assist with the removal of the casket.  It is thought to be an honor to serve as a pallbearer. These individuals can be male and female, and are usually family members and close friends of the deceased, who are not among the immediate family. The family of the deceased will then follow behind the casket.

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The Final Resting Place

The second part of the service takes place at the mausoleum crypt or niche. The Talmud says that escorting the dead to their final resting place is an act worthy of great praise due to the fact that it is done without the expectation of a reward. Upon arriving at the crypt or niche, prayers are recited and earth from the land of Israel is often placed on the casket or the urn. It is then placed into the crypt or niche. At the conclusion of the service, the Kaddish, a special prayer that praises God while we remember the deceased, is recited.

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Leaving the Mausoleum

In order to give those present at a funeral the opportunity to offer words of condolence to the mourners, friends form two rows through which the mourners pass as they leave. This tradition also gives the mourners a feeling of support and protection. Traditionally, the community offers words of comfort to the mourner: “May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” It is also customary to wash one’s hands as part of a ritual cleansing upon leaving the cemetery or mausoleum.

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Shiva

Once mourners depart, they begin the formal mourning period known as Shiva. For either three or  seven days, including the day of the funeral, the mourners stay in their home and do not venture out except to go to synagogue on Shabbat. It is a time to reflect and grieve with the support of family and friends.

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Memorial Candle

As soon as the family returns home from the funeral a special candle is lit and kept burning throughout the Shiva period. It is said that the flame symbolizes the soul of the deceased reaching upwards.

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Meal of Consolation or Condolence

After the funeral the mourners traditionally eat a meal provided by friends and neighbors. This meal includes hard-boiled eggs or other round foods, like a bagel or challah that symbolizes that the cycle of life must continue.

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Washing Hands

There is a bowl of water found at the exit of the Beth El Mausoleum and at the exit of the Shiva home. This provides the opportunity for ritual cleansing that is traditionally performed.

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Covering Mirrors

During Shiva, mirrors in the house of mourning can be covered, turned around to face the wall, or clouded over. The most popular reason for this being that mirrors are associated with vanity and that during a period of mourning it is not appropriate to be concerned with one’s physical appearance.

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Low Stools

Mourners often sit on low benches or stools no more than twelve inches high. This ancient custom, according to some scholars, is based on the Bible’s description of Job, who, having suffered misfortune, was comforted by friends who sat with him on the ground. The low posture represents how low the mourner feels. It is most important, however that the mourner be comfortable.

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Comforting the Mourner

It is the responsibility of the community to visit and provide for the mourners during their period of mourning. Some choose to bring food to the mourner’s home. Others make donations in memory of the person who has died. In the Jewish tradition, rather than sending flowers, individuals are encouraged to make charitable contributions.

Remember that by being there, you are a source of comfort. Therefore, your words are not as important as your presence. Jewish tradition recognizes that there are few things that a person can say to assuage another person’s grief. With that in mind, Judaism explains that the visitor should remain silent and wait for the mourner to speak first. You may then offer a few words of sympathy or give the mourner a hug or squeeze of the hand as a sign of support. A simple expression of “I love you” may be much more valuable than trying to philosophize.

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Shiva Minyan

During this week, services may be held in the mourner’s home and the Kaddish may be recited by the mourners (parents, children, spouse, and siblings).

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After the First Week

After Shiva, mourners may return to work. The entire thirty-day period commencing with the funeral is called shloshim.  You may continue to wear the black ribbon during this time period. Kaddish recitation for all relatives except parents concludes at the end of shloshim.  Kaddish for parents is recited for the following eleven months.

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Unveiling

During the first year, after shloshim, inscription is placed on the crypt or niche, and a ritual called an unveiling takes place. The unveiling literally was the unveiling of the stone, and is a time for family and friends to gather to remember their loved one after a period of mourning. The unveiling may be held any time after the first thirty days, and before or at the occasion of the first yahrtzeit (year anniversary). Please contact the clergy or Mausoleum Advisor when you are ready to set a date for the unveiling.

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Placing Stones

Many individuals choose to place stones at the crypt or niche when visiting their loved ones. This relates to the story of Jacob in the Bible, who when he lost his beloved Rachel, laid her to rest by the side of the road and marked the place by piling stones together. The Beth El Mausoleum provides stones for your convenience.

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Yahrzeit

Yahrzeit is the observance of the anniversary of the date of death. Many light a special yahrzeit candle, which burns for a full twenty-four hours starting at sundown the night before the observance of your loved ones death. At Shabbat services following the yahrzeit, the names of loved ones of Temple Beth El members will be read in their honor prior to the reading of Kaddish. If you are not a member of Temple Beth El, you may call the rabbi’s office to request the name of your loved one to be recited at the Shabbat service closest to their annual Yahrzeit date.

For information on honoring a loved one on our Yahrzeit Wall, please contact the Mausoleum Office at 561-391-8901.

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Yizkor

Yizkor is a synagogue memorial service that is held four times a year - Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret (after Sukkot), Passover, and Shavuot - in which we remember our loved ones, no matter how long ago the person died. This affords us an opportunity to sustain the bond we have shared with the loved ones whom we have lost. You may choose to light a memorial candle in your home or in the synagogue.

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View the Temple Beth El worship schedule here
 

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Address: 333 SW 4th Avenue Boca Raton, Florida 33432
near Palmetto Park Road and Federal Highway in east Boca Raton

Phone Number: 561-391-8901

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