Confronting Death Before Death Confronts Us

Why we are afraid to think about death--and why we must.

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4. Burial and preparations for burial can become unneces­sarily complicated. Funeral homes and directors serve observant, traditional, secular, and assimilated Jews, and are mandated to cater to all tastes and most lawful requests. Salesmen and counselors are not always familiar with the special requirements of their traditional clients [or encouraging of traditional possibilities for other clients who are not sure what they want to do]. Therefore, many "options" are offered which may not be halakhically acceptable. Both the dignity of the deceased and the interests of the bereaved are best served by prior knowledge of halakhically correct procedures.

5. The emotional disorientation of the bereaved cannot be overemphasized. How should this frightening situation be handled? What behavior is appropriate prior to the burial? How should one conduct oneself in a shivahouse? How can emotions be reoriented by traditional mourning practices? What are the differences between shiva, sheloshim,and the 12-month period of mourning for deceased parents?

Reprinted with permission from Death and Bereavement: A Halakhic  Perspective, published by Ktav Publishing.

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Rabbi Abner Weiss has served as a congregational rabbi in Beverly Hills, California, and London, and is a noted writer, lecturer, and halakhic authority. He has published a number of articles on Jewish bioethics.