usual, lots going on here in Israel, but, as usual, I have no profound comments
that have not been stated by others regarding those events. My family's personal events have been, well,
uneventful. We live normal and
relatively unremarkable personal lives -- for Israel, that is.
to a funeral yesterday. The decedent,
who was born in Manchester, England, had been living in Israel for almost 40
years. Her death was somewhat of a
surprise, inasmuch as she seemed to be in good health when I saw her for the
last time about a month ago at a gathering of Anglos in our community here. She had been complaining Wednesday night of
pains. Her son-in-law, who is an
emergency room physician at the hospital where my wife works, did not like what
he saw and got her admitted to the hospital.
She died at about 9 AM yesterday morning, and was buried at 2:30 in the
in Israel, everyone has a right to be buried in the local town cemetery in
whatever burial plot happens to be next on the list. Premium arrangements (e.g., saving a gravesite
next to that of one's spouse or other family member) can be made by those
willing and able to foot the bill for the same.
No such arrangements were made for our friend in this case; her late
husband, who has been gone about 12 years, is buried in another grave in a
different section of the same town cemetery.
the practices in America and elsewhere, there was no casket. Her body was borne on a litter, covered in a tallit, and placed into
the grave. A board was placed over the
body, and the grave was refilled by the funeral attendees.
the burial, the family received visitors (my wife and I included) in the departed's old apartment and will continue with sitting
Jewish tradition and culture, death is accepted as G-d's will, and we come to
terms with it accordingly. The body is
given a ritual washing,
and buried as soon as practicable thereafter.
One of the greatest acts of kindness is to participate in bringing the
deceased to his or her burial; any other act of kindness that is done cannot
help but have at least some motive for repayment, but the decedent you escort
to burial will never, and can never, repay you for your kindness to him or
her. It is a big deal!
on Long Island, our Rabbi had a few occasions to round up people for funerals
that otherwise would have been sparsely attended (i.e., less than the minyan of ten men),
including some where the decedent had little or no connection with the
congregation or community. Fortunately,
such was not necessary for yesterday's funeral; the deceased had plenty of local and not-so-local friends and family.
other cultures, death is denied and/or defied.
Fixing up the deceased's body for a viewing is a form of denial; it is,
at best, a highly reluctant form of acknowledgment that our relationship with
the departed will henceforth be different than it had been in the past. The so-called "Viking funerals"
where the body is placed in a boat and set afire are a form of derision where
death is mocked.
funeral practice that combines the best aspects of both denial and defiance is
the Jazzman's funeral, where the deceased jazz musician is escorted to his or her burial by a band of jazz musicians. Though typically associated with New Orleans,
they have been known to occur in England for British
jazz musicians, and elsewhere. I had
occasions, many years ago, to observe them as a fortuitous passer-by in Harrisburg
and in Baltimore. The practice has a certain
degree of class and quaintness to it, but it is not in keeping with Jewish funeral
and mourning practice and custom.
hope to receive a proper Jewish burial.
Labels: death, funeral, Israel, Jazzman's funeral, Jewish funeral