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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.
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 to walk along the path of mourning. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.