Loss of a Loved One

Illness & Prayers

It is important to contact Temple Beth El when a loved one is ill. Every Friday evening, our rabbis offer a prayer for those who are ill called a Mi Shebeirach, and we like to include members of our congregation, as well as their loved ones and friends in our communal prayer. This way the community can publicly acknowledge those individuals who are sick and together pray for their recovery.

Temple Beth El is blessed to offer the only mausoleum situated on synagogue grounds.

Visiting the Sick – Bikkur Cholim

When the congregation is made aware of individuals who are ill, we can arrange for the clergy and other trained volunteers to make visits. In 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 is always available to offer support and we make regular visits to members and their loved ones who are hospitalized. Boca Raton Community Hospital asks for religious and synagogue affiliation during registration, and providing this information helps us to locate you and your loved ones. However, please notify us when you or a loved one is hospitalized so we can visit and offer support.

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. The Bikkur Cholim group offers periodic training workshops for those who are interested in participating in this important mitzvah.


When medical intervention in treating disease has run its course, many individuals choose to participate in Hospice care when making end-of-life decisions. In cases where hospice care has already been arranged, the rabbis will make regular visits 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, Temple Beth El has a member of the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service team of social workers as part of our staff, who is on hand to answer any questions that you may have at this time. To get in touch with our Social Worker, please call 561-391-8900.


One of the greatest privileges for our congregation is to help members walk along the path of mourning. Through caring for the loss of a loved one we want to be with you as you begin this process and to help you understand Jewish tradition at this difficult period in life.

Temple Beth El strongly encourages members and their families to make pre-need arrangements with a funeral home and a place of interment, such as The Mausoleum at Temple Beth El, in advance of a loved one’s passing. The following information will guide you in making these arrangements in advance, or at the time of need.

Calling the Temple
When an individual dies, one should immediately contact the congregation. If your loss takes place after business hours or on the weekend, when you hear the voice-mail message, press “8” and you will be able to get in touch with one of the rabbis regardless of the time.
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.
Extended Family
Our clergy makes every effort to assist extended family who may not be members of the congregation. Please make us aware of these individuals so we can extend our services to them.
Calling the Funeral Home
Your next step will be to contact the funeral home. If you have not made arrangements in advance, the rabbis can help you in selecting a funeral director. Temple Beth El works with many funeral homes in the area. The funeral home will make arrangements to take custody of the body and for the preparation for the funeral service. In addition, the funeral director will guide you in making arrangements for the interment.
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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 interment. The Temple Beth El clergy and staff are here to help you understand the process and assist you in making your choices.

Jewish custom dictates that when a loved-one dies, a funeral service should be observed as soon as possible. This means as soon as the body is prepared, often within 24-48 hours. However, due to the fact that families are often very spread out, the service should be scheduled as quickly as everyone can gather. Also, funeral services cannot take place on Shabbat, Jewish holidays or festivals.

When selecting a date and time for the funeral, it is crucial that you check with the rabbi who is officiating before making a final decision. Otherwise, Temple Beth El cannot ensure that a rabbi will be available for the service. In addition to the rabbi, you may choose to have one of our cantorial soloists participate in the service.

The Casket

Traditionally, Jews bury their dead in a plain wooden casket. Jews did not utilize an ornate or elaborate casket to express the notion that all are equal in death. Jewish custom also dictates that no metal should be used in the construction of a wooden casket, as metal was a symbol of war, and our prayers are for the deceased to rest in peace.

When a loved one will be laid to rest in a mausoleum, there may be a requirement to use a steel casket. Your funeral director will guide you on the requirements for your place of interment.

In other cultures, where there is an extended period of time between a person’s death and the interment, it was customary to bring flowers to offset any offensive odor. Because in Jewish custom the interment takes place very soon after death, flowers were not part of Jewish tradition. Jews tend to restrain from placing flowers on the casket. This relates to the idea that a Jew should be buried in a simple manner. Instead of flowers, many choose to use their resources to make a charitable contribution in your loved-one’s honor or memory.
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.


Traditionally, Jewish custom frowned on cremation. This was in response to the elaborate funeral pyres pagan cultures would observe. Judaism also teaches the idea of “from dust we are formed and to dust we will return,” meaning that it was not our choice as to how we came to be formed, nor should we act in our return to the earth. In very traditional circles, there was also the belief that in messianic times, the righteous would enjoy a bodily resurrection, and so the preservation of the body was mandatory.

In modern times, many choose cremation in lieu of a bodily interment. While this is not traditional, Reform Judaism respects an individual’s right to make the choices that are most appropriate for him/herself. Sometimes a loved-one may make choices that conflict with our sensibilities, and it is still appropriate to honor your loved-one’s wishes, even if they go against Jewish tradition.

The funeral home can arrange for cremation. When a loved-one is cremated, it is still 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 Mausoleum at Temple Beth El niches are available for those who wish to reposit cremated remains.

Location of the Funeral Service

As part of the benefits of membership, members of Temple Beth El are welcome to hold the funeral service in the Rabbi Merle E. Singer Sanctuary or the Starkoff Chapel. If it is a small gathering and your loved one is being placed in the Beth El Mausoleum, you may also choose to have the service at the mausoleum’s outdoor Senville Chapel, or interior memorial rotunda.

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. 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. For those who wish, a black ribbon may be attached to one’s shirt and torn in lieu of the garment.

The Funeral Service

The funeral service consists of two parts: words spoken in honor of the deceased, and the burial 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.

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.
The Interment
The second part of the service takes place at the gravesite or the mausoleum. Along with the Beth El Mausoleum, there are a number of Jewish cemeteries in the Boca Raton area. 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 gravesite or crypt, prayers are recited and earth from the land of Israel is often placed on the casket. It is then lowered into the grave or placed into the crypt. At the conclusion of the service, the Kaddish, a special prayer that praises God while we remember the deceased,is recited. At a cemetery, mourners and the community then participate in laying the loved one to rest by placing a few shovelfuls of earth. Customarily one uses the back of the shovel for the first shovelful, to show our reluctance at performing this mitzvah.
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Beth El Mausoleum

Temple Beth El is blessed to offer the only mausoleum situated on temple grounds. It is the only one of its kind in the country offering an aboveground eternal resting place that is truly unique. While not traditionally part of Ashkenazic practice, the mausoleum is in accordance with the Jewish tradition. Since Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah as a burial place for Sarah, it has been a sacred tradition for Jews to be laid to rest either in or on hallowed ground. This is in accord with the widespread Biblical and post-Biblical custom of burying the dead in niches cut into the walls of a cave (Genesis 23:9).

Beth El Mausoleum offers entombment and inurnment. For more information, please email our Mausoleum Director or call 561-391-8901 or visit our website at bethelmausoleum.org.

Leaving the Cemetery / 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 the gravesite or crypt. 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.

Once mourners depart from the cemetery, they begin the formal mourning period known as shiva. For 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.

To assist you during this time, please click on the following link which will take you to Shiva Connect, a website to help you through this period of mourning.

Memorial Candle
As soon as the family returns home after the burial, a special candle is lit and kept burning throughout the shiva period. It is said that the flame symbolizes the soul of man reaching upwards.
Meal of Consolation or Condolence
After the funeral the mourners return home and traditionally eat a meal, provided by friends and neighbors. This meal includes hard-boiled eggs or other round foods, like a bagel, that symbolizes the cycle of life must continue.
Washing Hands
There is often a bowl of water found outside of a house of mourning. This serves the practical purpose of allowing those whose hands are soiled from participating in the burial to wash their hands before entering the home, in addition to the ritual cleansing one traditionally performed upon leaving the cemetery.
Covering Mirrors
During shiva, mirrors in the house of mourning are either 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.
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 these seven days. 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.

Shiva Minyan
During this week, services are held in the mourner’s home and the Kaddish is recited by the mourners (parents, children, spouse, and siblings). The Temple Beth El clergy and trained congregants are available to lead the minyan for as many days as you would like. The congregation provides prayer books and kippot.
Getting up from Shiva
The shiva period ends on the morning of the seventh day. Customarily, family gathers to offer remembrances and then leaves the house to walk around the block or neighborhood, as a symbolic rejoining of the community.
After the first week
After the seven days of shiva, the mourners may return to their work, but do not participate in celebrations and continue to wear the black ribbon for another twenty-three days. The entire thirty-day period commencing with the funeral is called shloshim. Kaddish recitation for all relatives except parents concludes at the end of shloshim. Kaddish for parents is recited for the following eleven months.
During the first year, after shloshim, a monument or marker is placed at the gravesite or crypt face, and a ritual called an unveiling takes place. The unveiling literally was the unveiling of the monument, and is a time for family and friends to gather at the gravesite or crypt 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. Please contact the clergy when you are ready to set a date for the unveiling.
Placing Stones on the Grave
At the dedication of the monument, many individuals choose to place stones on the grave. This relates to the story in the Bible of Jacob, 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. We mark our presence by joining with Jacob and placing a stone on the marker.
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