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Home  »  Educating Jewish Adolescents to Death, Dying and Bereavement

An Exploration of Alternatives for Educating Jewish Adolescents
to Dying, Death and Bereavement: A Pre-Deliberation Research Project

Teachers College – Columbia, 1979
Rabbi Joshua Elkin, Ed.D.




Over the centuries, Jews have written many popular texts on aspects of Jewish law. While the styles of presentation differ, they seem to fall into two basic categories: an exhaustive listing of all the laws or an overview of major observances. Thorough and comprehensive treatments of Jewish practice in death and mourning already exist; the reader is encouraged to become familiar with these valuable resources.1 The present work must be labeled an overview of major observances and traditions.

This style of presentation was chosen quite deliberately. Our particular interest is to highlight the components of the Jewish tradition with an eye toward facilitating a translation into educational resources. Elaboration on the minutia of the laws could leave the reader perplexed, with no solid handle on the subject matter. Many details and subtleties have, therefore, been eliminated.

This chapter will be organized around seven major principles from which the observances stem.2 This conceptual orientation, coupled with the selection of salient observances, will equip the reader to make use of this chapter during the deliberations that will transpire.

Two points of clarification are in order as guidance toward the most effective use of the contents. The reader will discover that certain practices are mentioned more than once, for they are used as examples of a few principles. We trust that this repetition will enlighten and not confuse; it is a testimony to the organic and complex nature of a tradition that resists efforts to impose a neat structure where every item has its unique place.

Second, the seven principles are in effect rationales for the observances. Some practices originated over two thousand years ago in vary different societies and circumstances and for reasons often having little, if anything, in common with our seven principles. Popular superstitions were certainly operative with a phenomenon such as death. The Jewish heritage has evolved and developed over the centuries through a healthy and dynamic interaction with surrounding cultures and religions. The willingness and ability of Jewish ancestors to incorporate and reinterpret rituals from different groups has added a tremendous vitality to the Jewish tradition. We must, indeed, be cognizant of historical roots; however, at the same time, we must not fall victim to historical reductionism or genetic fallacy.3

While both the practices and their rationales have undergone a substantial evolution, we hasten to emphasize the amazing continuity, particularly in practice, from the middle Rabbinic period right through the Middle Ages when the definitive codes of Jewish observances were compiled.4 A Jewish way in death and mourning has remained fairly crystallized for centuries within the many Jewish communities around the world.

The following seven principles are deeply embedded within the Jewish way5; they will provide the framework for the presentation of traditional material in this chapter:

  1. Respect for the Dead
  2. The Reality of Death and Its Acceptance
  3. Equality and Simplicity
  4. Communal Responsibility and Support
  5. The Venting of Emotions
  6. The Affirmation of Life
  7. Remembrance

Respect for the Dead (Kivod Ha-met)

An examination of any serious compendium on death and mourning practices reveals that kivod ha-met, respect for the dead, occupies a rather prominent position. The largest number of major observances (spanning from prior to a death until long after) emanates from this most basic of principles.

Visiting the Sick (Bikur Cholim)

Respect for the dead is a logical extension of a basic respect for the living. The Jewish tradition is quite insistent on the respect and attention that must be accorded a sick person. While one often quoted passage promises rewards for one who visits the sick6, another less-known source compares the failure to visit the sick to the actual shedding of blood 7. The comfort of the patient is the primary concern. “One should not come in the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the evening; in the morning the attendants are usually occupied with the patient, and in the evening the patient is usually tired.”8

The practice of visiting the sick has become deeply rooted in Jewish society and even in Jewish liturgy. Many communities organize Bikur Cholim Societies to facilitate fulfillment of the obligation.9 Several editions of liturgical works devoted entirely to visiting the sick have been published since the Middle Ages.10 These works contain prayers for all occasions and provide a structure for the visitor who might feel uncomfortable.

Care for the Dying and the Moment of Death

As life begins to depart from the sick, the traditional guidelines continue, with respect as their basis. Jewish sources employ a technical term to refer to a dying person–goses.11 Talmud teaches that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) stands at the head of the goses.12 This special status means, in practice, that the dying individual must be treated as a living person in all respects and not as an object or as one to be avoided;13 in addition, at no time is it permissible for the dying to be left alone.14 Visitors must refrain from idle conversation and eating, and they are permitted to leave the room only when absolutely necessary.15

The actual moment of death is charged with ultimate significance; therefore, it was considered a religious act to be present.16 A body of liturgy developed here as well to enable those present to respond appropriately to the awesome moment.17

Immediately Following Death

Jewish scholars and legal authorities over the centuries have resisted any efforts to dichotomize the human being into a body and a soul; the human being is an organic whole. Any attempt to denigrate the body, therefore, has been successfully overcome. We remain then with the beautiful analogy between the dead body and an impaired scroll of the Torah.18 Both are sacred; both are worthy of the most profound demonstrations of respect.

Like the dying person, the dead body cannot be left alone. A guard, shomer, must remain with the body from the moment of death until the funeral and burial.19 The guard is exempt from all other religious obligations as he performs this important act of respect.20

The laws of the aninut period (from the moment of death until the burial) exempt the bereaved from all religious obligations so that they can attend to the preparations for the funeral and burial- -crucial facets of the respect and dignity to which the dead are entitled.

Preparation of the Body

The washing and dressing of the body is an integral part of kivod ha-met. References to the ritual washing of the body, taharah, appear both in the Talmud as well as in the later codes. The taharah ritual is rather elaborate, the main feature being the pouring of water over the body in a prescribed manner. Prior to this, the body is washed thoroughly by rolling it from side to side. The face must at no time be allowed to face downward.21 While it is permissible to bury in a Jewish cemetery a body that has not had taharah, the sources strongly endorse the practice as an important opportunity to show respect.22

The dressing of the body follows the taharah, with each act accompanied by a body of liturgy.23 The traditional dress is referred to as shrouds–tachrichim. While the number of separate garments comprising the shrouds has increased, the basic parameters have remained intact: the shrouds must be clean and unadorned. A prayer shawl, tallit, is usually added for a male.24

The prepared body is then placed in a wooden coffin. Though a coffin is not essential (e.g., in Israel, no coffins are used), it was considered an integral part of the system of respect in the majority of Jewish communities.

The Funeral and Escorting the Dead (Levaya)

The main purpose of the Jewish funeral is to honor the dead person (yekara d’shiva). The format is actually quite simple: selections from Psalms (usually numbers 15, 23, and 90); the traditional memorial prayer for the departed, the eulogy (hesped); and other fitting selections at the discretion of the officiant.

The eulogy deserves special attention. Its origins go back to the late Biblical period,25 and it represents possibly the most public display of honor. While praise of the deceased is important, the eulogizer must present a balanced and realistic appraisal,26

Before, during, and after the funeral, it is absolutely forbidden to have the body available for viewing. This practice is frowned upon even in the Talmud;27 in later sources, the practice is termed “an act of boorishness and an insult to the dead”28

The accompanying of the dead from the funeral to the grave is a valued deed in the Jewish heritage- equal in status to visiting the sick. All members of the community who witness a funeral procession are bidden to stop whatever they are doing and escort the body, at least symbolically.29


The commandment to bury in the ground finds its origin in the Bible.30 We find three rationales for burial: atonement,31 preventing any further use of the body, and honor.32 One of the most commonly mentioned disgraces possible to a person is to remain unburied; in addition, the sources insist on a burial with great dispatch (not later than the day after death). The only permissible exceptions are for the sake of providing additional honor (e.g., waiting for shrouds or a coffin or for relatives to arrive from distant places).33

Cremation is considered a violation of the sanctity and honor inherent in the human body. The insistence on natural decomposition is unequivocal. While strict tradition forbids the burial of ashes in a Jewish cemetery, the Conservative stance is that the ashes may be buried there but without any religious service; in addition, the urn should have an opening so that the ashes come in contact with the earth.34

The Cemetery—Respectful Behavior

Behavior in a Jewish cemetery is governed by two secondary principles that find clear formulation in the sources: the prohibition on levity (kalut rosh) and the prohibition on mocking the dead (lo’eg larash). The most salient example of the levity prohibition is the ban against eating and drinking. The definition of mockery is the performance of any commandment that the dead person is unable to perform. The following actions are, therefore, prohibited, particularly within the immediate vicinity of the graves: wearing of phylacteries (tefillin), reciting blessings, studying the Torah, and carrying a Torah into the area.35

Autopsies, Transplants, Embalming and Exhumation

Two secondary principles under the category of respect are relevant to a discussion of these four facets of death: disgrace (bizayon) and mutilation (nivul). These principles function, however, merely as general guidelines. Their application to each situation can become the subject of enormous controversy, depending on which rabbinic authorities are consulted.

Routine autopsies are generally forbidden for they constitute a mutilation of the body and a violation of its sanctity. Autopsies are permitted when required by law (e.g., homicide), and the physicians can prove that the knowledge to be gained may actually save lives.36 After every autopsy, it is imperative that proper burial of the body take place, with all its parts.

The willing of eyes and kidneys poses the question of potential mutilation. The majority of Conservative authorities rule that no violation of the body’s sanctity and honor is entailed.

While embalming is referred to in the Bible, it has been generally prohibited because of its mutilating potential. In more recent times, however, when burial is often delayed a day, some embalming nay be required by civil law. Embalming is allowed in such cases but only with methods that leave the body totally intact.37

Exhumation is forbidden for the most part both because of disgrace and mutilation.38 The general prohibition is qualified by commentators. A few examples of allowable exhumation are: in order to re-inter in Israel; to be buried in an ancestral plot; if the deceased, prior to death, requested that he later be interred in a different grave; or if the grave will be inundated by river water.39

Long After Death

Even long after death, the deceased is honored by a number of customs that have gained wide acceptance within Jewish tradition and practice. Families often name children after deceased relatives. Among Sephardim, the custom is to name children even after living relatives.

When referring to the deceased, the practice has developed to add immediately “peace unto him/her,” “the memory of the righteous will be a blessing,” or “may his/her name be a blessing.” These gestures are widely used as they serve to perpetuate the memory and honor of the deceased.

The Reality of Death and Its Acceptance

A second basic tenet of the Jewish system is the emphasis on confronting the reality of death and accepting that reality as swiftly as possible. The initial agenda for all relatives and friends must be to recognize the truth.

This honest recognition of death begins long before the actual death; in fact, awareness of our common end is built into the Jewish Weltanschauung at many strategic points. In Orthodox circles, for example, a rather popular custom is that a groom’s wedding garment will ultimately serve as his burial shroud . A further example can be found in the often cited maxim: “Repent one day before your death.”40 But how does anyone know what day that will be? The answer is that we must live each day as though it were our last.

The Moment of Death

All present during the final minutes of life are required to remain until the moment of death, not only out of respect, but also for the sobering effect which death has on the living.41 At the moment of death, it was the custom for the mourners to rend a garment and for everyone to recite a blessing praising God as the true judge.42 This practice has been transferred, for the most part, to the funeral service itself.

The recitation of the verse, “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away,”43 is a basic feature of the moment of death, followed by the reading of selected Psalms, usually number 90 and 91.44

The Onen’s Duties and Frame of Mind

The onen (the mourner, from the moment of death until the burial) must take charge of the funeral arrangements-hence, the exemption from other religious obligations. The many decisions to be made by the onen are geared toward a forthright confrontation with the reality of death despite the many difficulties in assimilating it. The onen’s freedom to actively participate in the funeral preparations can often contribute toward a swifter incorporation of the loss.

Commentators on the practices governing the onen delineate the frame of mind, which the tradition seems to legitimate.


represents the spontaneous human reaction to death. It is an outcry, a shout, or a howl of grisly horror and disgust. Man responds to his defeat at the hands of death with total resignation and with an all-consuming, masochistic, self-devastating black despair. Beaten by the fiend, his prayers rejected, enveloped by a hideous darkness, forsaken and lonely, man begins to question his own human singular reality. Doubt develops quickly into a cruel conviction, and doubting man turns into mocking man….

In a word, the motto of aninut is to be found in the old pessimistic verse in the book of Ecclesiastes: “So that man has no preeminence over the beast, for all is vanity.”45

The onen is allowed “to withdraw into his own pain and loss and identification with the deceased.”46 In many respects, the onen actually pulls back from life and experiences a temporary death.47 This paradigm for the onen’s behavior serves to underscore the indisputable reality of the death.

Prohibition on Comforting

The community-at-large receives guidance to ensure a keen sensitivity to the onen’s plight. The famous tractate, Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), states that one should not comfort a mourner “in the hour when his dead lies before him”48 In practice, this prohibition certainly extends until the funeral; however, some communities have observed the prohibition for three additional days.

Comfort is not appropriate, given the crisis which the mourner is undergoing. As we shall see, communal support is certainly required, but direct consolation must await a more suitable moment. Death’s cruel blow must remain the sole focus of the onen’s attention.

The Prohibition on Viewing

Public display of the body not only violates the principle of honor, but it also potentially contributes to a denial. “The art of the embalmer is the art of denial.”49 The body in the coffin is not alive; therefore, any effort to conceal that fact impedes an acceptance of death’s reality. Jewish tradition does not tolerate any such obstacle.

At the Cemetery

A number of practices accentuate the realism and acceptance. The procession traditionally makes seven stops while en route to the gravesite –the number seven derived from the seven references to vanity and nothingness in the book of Ecclesiastes.50 At the grave itself, the mourners are supposed to throw at least a shovelful of earth on the coffin and to hear the thud as it falls on the hollow wood.51

As the body is being interred, the recitation of the famous prayer, Tzidduk Hadin (the justice of the judgment), takes place. The passage, dating from Talmudic times, contains themes that touch death’s essence: God ordained this dreadful end; God be merciful to the survivors; and God’s decree must be accepted52 Upon leaving the cemetery, those present pull up some grass as testimony to man’s earthly origin’s and destiny.53

Equality and Simplicity

All Jewish legal sources are unanimous in their insistence on absolute democracy and simplicity in death. If we go back to the Talmud, however, we find the following often cited passage:

Formerly they used to bring food to the house of mourning, the rich in baskets of gold and silver, the poor in baskets of willow twigs; and the poor felt ashamed. Therefore a law was instituted that all should use baskets of willow twigs.

Formerly they used to bring out the deceased for burial, the rich on a tall state bed, ornamented and covered with rich coverlets, the poor on a plain bier (or box); and the poor felt ashamed. Therefore a law was instituted that all should be brought out on a plain bier.

Formerly the expense of the burial was harder to bear by the family than the death itself, so that sometimes they fled to escape the expense. This was so until Rabban Gamaliel insisted that he be buried in a plain linen shroud instead of costly garments. And since then we follow the principle of burial in a simple manner (Moed Katan 27a, b).54

In their histories of Jewish burial practices, Schauss and Bender corroborate this portrait of the pre-Gamaliel period.55 Rabban Gamaliel’s personal example provided the impetus for a trend toward the equality and simplicity that eventually became normative within the Jewish world. Shortly after Gamaliel’s death, the extravagance had already begun to subside.56

The Dress and the Coffin

The Talmud and other early legal material contain many passages that severely limit elaborate funerals and burials.57 Excessive expenditure becomes classified as an example of the “wanton destruction” of valuable resources.58

The plain linen shroud of Rabban Gamaliel became the norm; fine clothing is frowned upon.59 The shrouds have no pockets, lest their contents might make a distinction between two individuals.60 A burial is not the appropriate occasion to flaunt wealth.

The coffin is an optional item, unless required by the prevailing secular authority. If used, simplicity and uniformity are essential. A plain wooden box is stipulated. Some communities bore holes in the bottom side to bring the body in direct contact with the soil, thereby hastening the process of decomposition.


The Talmud abounds with examples of funerals where various flowers were used for ornamentation. The logic of equality eventually effected a change: the poor felt ashamed. Rather than a squandering of funds on perishable flowers, the sources recommend a contribution to charitable causes–most appropriately, one dear to the heart of the deceased.61

Communal Responsibility and Support

The tragedy of a death affects the immediate family most deeply. Judaism has institutionalized many practices to assist the mourners in coming to terms with their loss (most notably, the mourning cycle, to be discussed in the next section). According to the Jewish world view, however, the community as a whole has also sustained a severe loss. Besides offering normal support and comfort to the mourners, the community members have definite responsibilities for significant aspects of the funeral and burial preparations.

The Holy Society (Chevra Kaddisha)

The most striking example of Jewish communal responsibility is the Chevra Kaddisha, an organization basic to every Jewish community until the present century. The origins of this society go back to Talmudic times when important scholars of each community used to handle burial arrangements.62 Under the influence of Roman burial societies, brotherhoods for burials were founded in the larger Jewish communities.63 In the fourteenth century, historical records tell us of a single burial society or Chavurah for an entire community.

It has its regulations and ordinances, according to which the family of the deceased paid for the burial in proportion to its economic standing. Only poor families were served free of charge. Lots were cast among the members of the brotherhood to ascertain whose turn it was to dig the grave. If the lot fell to a poor member, the brotherhood paid him for his day’s work. If a member of the brotherhood died, he was succeeded by his oldest son, if the latter had attained his majority (thirteen years). The brotherhood took care of everything pertaining to the burial as well as the mourners after the funeral, providing them with meals and with a minyan (ten men) to recite prayers in the house of mourning during the first seven days.64

One rather famous Chevra continues to exist in the City of Prague. Its history has been documented in detail:

The Chevra Kaddisha of Prague was a democratic organization patterned after the guilds. Membership was contingent on ethical conduct, erudition, and experience. The disregard for earthly possessions doubtlessly arose from thoughts about their irrelevance in the face of death. . .

The Chevra Kaddisha stood by the Jewish community from the cradle to the grave. It provided for poor women in childbed and for the feast at the circumcision. It also gave dowries to poor brides.

The Prague Chevra Kaddisha served as a model for many other Holy Brotherhoods throughout Europe. The Jews of Prague were justly proud of their Chevra. On many a gravestone in the Jewish cemeteries of Prague, there is engraved the epithet, “Saken der Chevra Kaddisha.”65

The Chevra Kaddisha observes its own special day on the calendar each year–the seventh day of the Hebrew month of Adar, the traditional anniversary of Moses’ death. The observance is marked by fasting and special prayers, with an elaborate feast in the evening.

The specific duties of the Chevra are rather substantial: guarding, washing, and dressing the body; the making of shrouds;66 calling people to the funeral; carrying the bier; and preparing the gravesite.67 If there is no immediate family, then the responsibility for all arrangements falls upon the entire community.68

The Funeral and Burial

One’s presence at the funeral, the procession, and the burial honors the deceased; however, the bereaved receive tremendous support from this display of communal solidarity. All individuals within view of the procession are obliged to pause in their work and accompany the procession for a few feet.69 At the gravesite, members of the community form two rows through which the mourners pass as they leave the burial. At this moment, consolation is finally in order, and the traditional verse is recited by all present: “May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

The Meal of Consolation

(Se’udat Havra’ah)

Some mourners observe the custom of not eating a full meal prior to the burial (on the burial day itself).70 Other mourners simply do not care to eat or even think of food on the solemn day. Upon returning from the cemetery, however, a meal prepared by the community (usually neighbors) awaits the grieving family. Friends relieve the mourners of the need to prepare their own food.71

Following the meal, everyone joins in the traditional Grace After Meals (Birkat Hamazon) with a special section added asking God to bring comfort to the mourners.72

The Seven Days of Mourning (Shivah)

The most sustained display of intensive communal support is unquestionably during the seven-day mourning period that commences with the burial day. With the mourners forbidden to leave the house, visitors arrive in a constant flow, both to participate in the morning and evening prayers as well as to offer sympathy and to sit with the mourners as they recall the deceased. The Shivah house was never meant to be an occasion for a social gathering.

After Shivah

On the first Friday night following the conclusion of the seven-day period, the community formally receives the mourning family as the Sabbath is ushered in. They are comforted once again as they resume their normal life.

On the thirtieth day following death,73 family, relatives, and friends often gather for a short memorial meeting — an additional demonstration of communal support as well as an occasion for honoring the deceased once again.

When a parent has died, the mourners are required to recite the kaddish (a doxology), morning and evening for eleven months, in the presence of ten other Jews (thirteen years or older).74 The daily services provide a constant setting for continued fellowship and support. Those gathered form a community of their own. The mourner feels the common bond uniting him with the other mourners present as well as with the regular daily participants.75

The Venting of Emotions–The Grief Cycle

History and Possible Rationales

With the exception of the respect for the dead, the venting of emotions receives the most attention within the Jewish ritual system. The basic origin of the commandment to mourn is in the Bible where one can find explicit examples of key Biblical personalities in their grief;76 however, formal institutionalization of the seven-day period took place only with the arrival of the rabbinic period.77 Those to be mourned include: father, mother, spouse, son, daughter, brother, and sister.78

The general thrust of the Jewish grief cycle seems to be the legitimization of an intense emotional outpouring; nevertheless, in any elaborate pattern of observance, other elements are certainly at play, and the Jewish grief cycle is no exception. One prominent contemporary Jewish scholar, Joseph Soloveitchik, following the famous medieval commentator Rashi, states that the experiential substance of mourning is also atonement, and not simply an expression of grief.


during shivah and shloshim, which ends on the thirtieth day after burial, is an act of atonement or expiation for both these sins, for man’s insensitivity vis-à-vis God and vis-à-vis his fellow man, for not having realized who they were until they were gone.79
A second author, Emanuel Feldman, foments against those who are guilty of psychologizing the Jewish mourning practices.80 Though Feldman certainly acknowledges the existence of psychological, sociological, and utilitarian motifs, he feels, nevertheless, that such explanations are incomplete. For Feldman, the mourning legislation is an “expression of a profound religious Weltanschauung.”

The mourning laws. . .are a concrete manifestation of the Judaic view of death; namely, that death desacralizes man because it is the end of the dynamic interaction with God which can take place only in life. Death removes man from an intimate relationship with God; he can no longer serve Him, he can no longer perform the mitzvot (commandments), he no longer possesses the nishmat chayyim, the breath of life, which is the distinguishing characteristic of the human being.

What of the surviving, living mourner, who alone among the living now knows what it is to experience the end of life and the termination of a meaningful relationship with God? In effect, the law asks the mourner to behave as if he himself were dead. He is now an incomplete person, and his daily life begins to reflect the fact of his incompleteness.81

A third authority, Yechiel Tucatzinsky, in his monumental work Gesher Ha-chayim (Bridge of Life), cites emotional release and atonement as two often-quoted rationales, but he then goes on to offer a new purpose for the mourning legislation;

…to instill the importance of human life–life with free will and free choice, thus acquiring the capacity for living life as an individual and the ability to discern the difference between the death of a beast, which is only a monetary loss–and the death of a human being which is a loss of an individual part of creation.

Therefore the commandment (to mourn) devolves upon the blood relatives because only man has the close family which feels loss.82

Still another understanding of the mourning practices is as an “opportunity for the family and the community to re-knit after the loss of one of its members so that they may continue to be able to love and to work.”83

Rather than constituting an open challenge to the principle of venting emotions, these additional perspectives on the grief cycle deepen our grasp of the complexity of emotions and feelings that are likely to overwhelm a mourner. Against the background of these interpretations, we can proceed to examine the specific legislation that comprises the Jewish grief cycle. The five major stages are:

1. from death to burial–aninut;

2. the first three days following burial;

3. the first seven days after burial–shivah;

4. the thirty days after burial–shloshim;

5. the yearly anniversary of the death–yahrzeit.

From Death to Burial (Aninut)

In the discussions of honoring the dead and the realism of the tradition, we have had occasion to mention the major guidelines for the onen (as he is called until after the burial). The sense of futility and despair is most intense; therefore, the legislation allows for an extreme withdrawal from normal activities, both secular and religious. The rending of the garment (kriah) is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most basic expressions of intense grief.

The aninut period draws to a close as the actual burial is completed, and the mourner recites the traditional affirmation of Cod’s greatness, the kaddish. The mood changes dramatically from “despair” to a more “intellectual sadness.”

While before burial, in the stage of aninut, man mourned in total darkness and confusion, and his grief expressed itself in an act of resignation from his greatness and chosenness, after burial, in stage two, man mourns in an enlightened mood, and his grief asserts itself in the awareness of human greatness and human election.

The ceremonial turning point at which aninut is transformed into avelut, despair into intellectual sadness … is to be found in the recital of the kaddish at the grave.84

The Shivah Period–Its Initial Three Days

The shivah period represents the very core of the mourning legislation; therefore, the codes of Jewish Law contain elaborate treatments of these important seven days. According to strict legal interpretation, the first three days of the mourning period differ somewhat from the final four. Some sources state that the mourner must not be comforted until after the three days.85 Pious mourners will not greet anyone nor respond to a greeting during the initial days.

Though the distinctive features of the three-day period are sometimes not cited by Conservative authorities, their existence within the traditional sources points to a gradual progression in the diminution of grief–a progression that must not be too hasty.

The Shivah Period—The Seven Days

The legislation governing the shivah period spans many volumes, especially when the numerous exceptions and fine points are discussed. Though such a level of specificity is beyond the scope of this overview, it is possible, nevertheless, to distinguish the major practices which number approximately twelve.86 Many of the practices date from the early centuries of the Common Era.87

1. The candle. A longstanding practice is to light a seven-day candle upon returning front the cemetery.88 Traditional sources abound with references to the spiritual and symbolic value of candlelight–most notably, the wick and flame as an analogy for the body and the soul.89

2. Prohibition on leaving the home. The mourner must remain within the confines of the hone for the entire seven-day period. This enforced confinement ensures that distractions are kept to a minimum. The mourners are required to recite the kaddish prayer in the presence of ten adults (over thirteen); therefore, at least ten individuals arrive in the morning and evening so that the services can be held within; the mourner’s home.90

3. Prohibition on work. This is a related prohibition; confinement to one’s house makes a regular work schedule impossible. The assimilation of a loss and the resumption of normal activity require this in-depth period of concentration. Exceptions to the general restriction are readily made in cases of poverty, possible severe loss, or public need.91 Routine household chores are not included under the category of prohibited work.92

4. Haircuts and shaving. These are forbidden during the shivah period.93 Women should not use cosmetics.

5. Mirrors are covered. This applies to all rooms of the house of mourning. Many explanations have been offered for this practice and the prohibition of cutting hair: a general de-emphasis on beauty and ornamentation of the flesh while a person’s body decays; symbolism for the withdrawal from society; and testimony to the image of God (i.e., man as reflected in a mirror) that has been diminished by the death of one of His creations.94

6. Prohibition on laundering, ironing, and wearing new outer clothing.95 The social withdrawal and inward orientation must be complete during the initial mourning phase.

7. Prohibition on studying the Torah.96 Study is considered inappropriate because it is traditionally a major source of enjoyment; however, certain books are thought to be quite appropriate: Job, Lamentations, the laws of mourning, and selections from the book of Jeremiah. Other compilations of appropriate readings are available for the mourner’s use.97

8. Limitations on social greetings. While the initial three days carry restrictions both on offering and responding to a greeting, the remaining four days retain only the limitation on offering a greeting. Generally speaking, the mourner should initiate all substantive conversation so that the words spoken will respond to the mourner’s agenda. The classical source for this practice is the paradigmatic mourner, Job, who initiates all the interactions with his comforters (without any formal greetings).

9. Prohibition on attending festivities. This includes weddings and any gathering where music is being played.98

10. Prohibition on wearing leather shoes. In previous centuries, leather shoes were viewed as a symbol, par excellence, of luxury and comfort–to be avoided at this time of grief.99

11. Prohibition on sexual intercourse. The enjoyment and closeness of the sexual act is incongruous with the grief and pain experienced during the shivah week.100

12. Prohibition on the use of a regular chair. The mourner is made to feel lowly through the custom of sitting on an inverted bench or on a low stool. This practice is an ancient sign of grief, dramatically reinforcing the mourner’s humbled state. When comforters arrive, the mourner need not rise from the stool; the occasion does not correspond in any way to that of host (hostess) and guest.

Sabbath and Festivals During Shivah

The following regulations apply:
Shabbat is included in counting the seven days, though on Shabbat no outward signs of mourning apply. The mourners should wear regular shoes, sit on regular chairs, and change into clothing that bear no signs of mourning. They also attend synagogue services.

On Friday (unless it is the seventh day of shivah) or on the day before a Festival, shivah is observed until two and one-half hours before sunset. On Pesach eve it ends at noon.

A Festival, Rosh Hashanah, or Yom Kippur, annul the remainder of shivah, provided that the mourner has first observed at least one hour of shivah.101

The Thirty-Day Period

Shivah ends on the morning of the seventh day, following the services. The remaining twenty-three days constitute the balance of the next major phase of the grief cycle. The following restrictions obtain during the shloshim period: haircuts, new clothing, festivities, and wedding celebrations.

The experiential character of the shloshim period is dramatically different from the shivah period, particularly because the mourner must leave the house and resume a more or less normal routine with all the accompanying responsibilities. A shloshim gathering takes place after the thirtieth day, with appropriate readings and a formal remembering of the deceased.

Mourning for a Parent

The death of a mother or father receives special consideration within the mourning system, most notably in the institution of a fifth phase in the cycle: the first full year after the death. The mourner for a parent continues to observe the shloshim restrictions for a full year, along with the recitation of the kaddish prayer for eleven months.102

A number of details relating to the tearing of the garment are also unique in the case of a parent’s death. The cut is generally made on the right side; however, the left side (closer to the heart) is used for a parent. While the other tears are mendable in part after seven days and in full after the shloshim, the tear for a parent remains fully torn until the end of the shloshim period, after which only a partial mending is permissible.103

Strict Limitations on Grief

Equal in importance to the commandment to mourn is the prescription against excessive grieving. In Biblical, Talmudic, and post-Talmudic legal material, one can find numerous statements which place an explicit limit on grief.104 The onen may not take religious obligations upon himself voluntarily.105 The mourner may not decide to increase the number of days or even the number of hours for sitting shivah; in fact, if the burial takes place close to sunset, that day still counts as a full day.

The entire Jewish grief cycle reveals a very definite effort to develop a gradually diminishing scale of intensity which lends structure to a mourner’s often chaotic and inchoate reactions and channels him gently, but effectively, toward the resumption of full living.

This is a schedule, then, for graduated expression of the subsiding intensity of grief and mourning. This schedule discourages us from mourning either too little or too much. It reduces our concern that we might not be showing enough respect to the memory of the one whom we have lost. It also prevents us from cutting short the period of mourning before it has been properly completed.106

The Affirmation of Life

The grief cycle itself offers some rather clear examples of life reaffirmed: mourning must never be excessive, and speedy integration into normal living is essential. Evidence of a positive response to life appears, however, even before the advent of any formal grief.

The Confessional (Vidui)

The dying person traditionally recites a general confessional prayer, which acknowledges a transition from one stage of life to another.

The confessional on the deathbed is the recognition of the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another. This and the recitation of the Shema in the last moments before death help to affirm faith in God precisely when it is most challenged, and help the dying person focus on those most familiar rituals of his life just at the moment when he enters the most mysterious and unknowable experience of his life.107

At the Burial –The Kaddish Prayer

Prior to the funeral, the mourners gather to recite the blessing responding to a death: “Praised are You, O Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, the truthful Judge.” These words certainly convey an acceptance of the death and at least some minimal acknowledgment that life continues and has meaning.

The most dramatic declaration of a reaffirmation of life takes place as the burial concludes and the mourner recites the kaddish for the first time (to be continued for eleven months in the case of a parent and thirty days for the other relatives).108 The kaddish is a very ancient Aramaic prayer; its essential verse, “May His great name be blessed forever and ever,” probably dates from the days of the Second Temple, a few centuries before the beginning of the Common Era. During the rabbinic period, the basic formulation developed and became integrated into daily worship in a number of variations: the “half kaddish” as a transition between the minor portions of the service; the “complete kaddish” as a conclusion to major portions; and the “rabbis’ kaddish” as a conclusion to the study of rabbinic literature. During the early medieval period, the following important development took place:

At one time, lectures on Torah were given in the house of mourning during the week after the death of a learned man as a means of honoring his memory; later this period was prolonged and the lectures were continued for a whole year. At the end of each discourse the lecturer would naturally close with the kaddish, and the mourners and visitors present would respond with; “May His great Name be blessed for ever and ever.” But in order not to shame anyone, this way of honoring the memory of the learned was extended to include everyone. This was perhaps the beginning of the association of the kaddish with paying respect to the memory of the dead.109

Despite the absence of any specific reference to death, the kaddish became integrally associated with the experience of death and mourning. Its recitation by mourners has never once been called into question. In addition to providing comfort, bereavement fellowship, and a generational link,110 the ideas contained within the kaddish have ingrained themselves into the Jewish perspective. The expressed commitment to life is unmistakable.

Through the kaddish we hurl defiance at death and its fiendish conspiracy against man. When the mourner recites: “Glorified and sanctified be the great name,” he declares: No matter how powerful death is, notwithstanding the ugly end of man, however terrifying the grave is, however nonsensical and absurd everything appears, no matter how black one’s despair is and how nauseating an affair life is, we declare and profess publicly and solemnly that we are not giving up, that we are not surrendering, that we will carry on the work of our ancestors as though nothing had happened….111

The additional verses contained in the burial kaddish accentuate this message, particularly in the declaration that God will renew the world in the future.

The Meal of Consolation

This poignant display of communal warmth and support also contributes to the growing affirmation of life necessary for the mourner. Its origin harks back to Biblical times when King David broke bread after the death of Avner.112 We have already spoken of the mourner’s death wish:113

One astute medieval rabbi, obviously of the pre-Freudian era, observed that the mourner harbors a strong death wish at the moment he returns home to the familiar surroundings bereft of warmth and life. His wish is to join his beloved. In this frame of mind he would tend to deprive himself of food in order to achieve a symbolic death. Indeed, a comment frequently heard is, “Who can eat when my husband lies dead in the cold, friendless earth?”114

The very act of eating a mandated meal provides badly needed redirection:

It [the meal] restates the theme of life and forces the mourner to recognize that his life must still go on, even though he may feel now that it too has ended with the loss of his loved one. The first mandatory meal is a resocializing and an “unlearning” experience. Until now the mourner was allowed to withdraw into his own pain and loss and identification with the deceased, but now the community reaches out to redirect him back toward the path of complete living.115

The traditional foods for this meal also reinforce the message of affirmation. “The meal generally includes hard boiled eggs, lentils or other round objects which symbolize fate and the wheel of life for some–life and hope for others. In ancient times, the egg symbolized life and resurrection.”116

Other Examples of Affirmation

1. The sewing of the torn garment graphically demonstrates the healing of the wound and the return to normalcy.

2. More telling, however, is the freedom given an engaged mourner to marry immediately after the shloshim period (even when the mourning is for a parent). The marriage may take place with all the accompanying festivities.117 Certain extenuating circumstances can also make some weddings permissible even during the shloshim period itself.118

3. The rather drastic legislation for shivah observance when a festival occurs is quite instructive. 119 If even one hour of shivah is observed prior to the advent of the festival, then the holiday cancels the remainder of the seven days completely. If death occurs during a holiday, then shivah begins only after the festival’s conclusion. “The positive commandment (to rejoice on the festival) which pertains to the entire people pushes aside the positive commandment (to mourn) which pertains to the individual.”120

The Jew may be mortal, but he participates in eternity; he may not be the redeemer, but he participates in redemption. It is no wonder then that the grief of the individual mourner is incompatible with the national joy of the Festival. It is the very experience of the festival which teaches the Jew that life is not measured by the calendar years one lived, that the Jew can reach beyond his life and transcend, even defy, the finality of the grave.121

4. The laws relating to a suicide are worthy of mention in this context. According to the Jewish understanding, a person who takes his own life must be considered a murderer, for such a person “asserts that he denies the Divine mastery and ownership of his life, body, and soul.”122 He demonstrates, in addition, a lack of appreciation for the value of life itself. The individual is not accorded, therefore, any of the normal practices of respect and honor. “The general rule is: the public should participate in whatever is done out of respect for the living; it should not participate in whatever is done out of respect for the dead.”123 The suicide does not deserve respect. In practice, this means that no rending and no eulogizing take place; however, people must line up to comfort the mourners, and the mourners’ blessing is recited.

The sources provide a strict definition of what constitutes suicide; later authorities have provided additional qualifications: “The only suicide for whom mourning is not observed is one who does it out of a cynical disregard for life but not one who does it because he cannot cope with the problems he faces.”124 Today, with our knowledge of depression and insanity, virtually all suicides are granted the full rites of respect and mourning.

Life Beyond the Grave

A belief in an afterlife is certainly one dimension of affirming life. The extreme complexity of this part of Jewish belief mitigates against our ability to handle it within the scope of this overview. We can offer, nevertheless, a few general comments.

The first notion of a belief in a life after death did not appear in Judaism until the early rabbinic period (just prior to the advent of the Common Era). A bitter controversy ensued, and the belief in a resurrection of both the body and soul eventually became accepted as more or less normative.125 Varying interpretations of resurrection continued to proliferate. “Any attempt to systematize the Jewish notions of the hereafter imposes upon them an order and consistency which does not exist in them.”126 Rabbis, teachers, and Jewish philosophers have tried, nevertheless, to find the common threads. Two such examples follow.

Judaism, then, has not wholly harmonized or integrated a precept of death and the hereafter. However, in spite of the varied beliefs throughout its circuitous history, there are certain central and unifying patterns….. The inevitability of death … the deathlessness of man’s spirit… recompense…resurrection.127

…First is the emphasis upon living the good life for its own sake without the desire for reward or the fear of punishment….

Equally vital is the biblical conviction that this world is the arena where God manifests Himself and where man can fulfill his destiny.

Third, the Bible emphasizes that children constitute a uniquely satisfying avenue of immortality for men.

Finally, there is a bewildering array of conceptions of the afterlife . . . varying from the literal to the figurative, from the grossest and most material to the most spiritual. Yet underlying them all, one principle may be discerned: the conviction that physical death does not end all for man, that in some sense man’s life is indestructible and his spirit endowed with immortality.

On the issue of man’s immortality, humility is the basic virtue and dogmatism the cardinal sin. That man lives on, we may affirm; how he lives on, we cannot know. Koheleth, the Biblical thinker, has told us all we know or need to know: “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”128

While the Conservative movement has retained the traditional liturgical references to resurrection and immortality, many of its professional leaders choose to understand these beliefs in more figurative and symbolic terms.


The Memorial Service (Yizkor)

Four times during the Jewish calendar year, mourners recite special memorial prayers during the regular service (on Yom Kippur and the final days of the three festivals Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). The practice originated on Yom Kippur as a communal service, became popular for martyrs during the Crusader period, and eventually applied to all individual losses.129 Yizkor on the three festivals did not appear until the fifteenth century.

The original purpose of this memorial service was not simply to remember (the meaning of the term yizkor), but also to give charity to the poor in behalf of the deceased130 The underlying belief was that meritorious deeds of the descendants could atone for the sins of the deceased. Though the belief was popular, many rabbinic authorities opposed this practice and its rationale.

Over the centuries, yizkor has become extremely well observed through both prayers and the giving of charity. Some congregations and communities have observed both aspects while others have limited the observance to prayer. The service consists of introductory passages from Psalms, individual memorial prayers for personal losses and Jewish martyrs (said silently), and the traditional memorial prayer, El Moley Rahamin (Lord, full of mercy). A memorial candle burns in the home for the entire twenty-four hours of the yizkor day. If one is not able to reach a synagogue, it is permissible (though less preferable) to recite the yizkor service privately.131

The Yearly Anniversary

The yahrzeit represents still another ritual to assist the mourner in coping with bereavement through a prescribed commemoration and remembrance. Following the Crusader massacres, the survivors mourned the victims and memorialized the anniversaries of their deaths. The transition to a yahrzeit for personal members of a family was natural and swift.132

A memorial candle burns from the night before and through the yahrzeit day. The mourner attends the three daily services to recite the kaddish once again.

The Tombstone (Matzevah)

The ancient practice of erecting a tombstone has remained unquestioned within Jewish tradition as an important means to identify the grave and to preserve the memory of the dead for many generations to come. While disagreement existed concerning the appropriate time for placing the tombstone, the more recent legal works prefer not earlier than one year after the death although it is permissible after the shloshim period. The traditional inscription includes this hope: “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.”

Visiting the Cemetery

Jews have always shown a particular respect for the cemetery. Every community of Jews recognized its obligation to provide a suitable resting place for its dead. The various names for the cemetery reveal the esteem and respect for it: the house of graves (bet kvarot), the eternal house (bet olamin), and the house of life (bet chayyim).133 The dedication of a new cemetery is a cherished responsibility of the Chevra Kaddisha and the community, with specific psalms and prayers distinguishing the ceremony.134

Visiting graves has remained a common and important demonstration of respect and remembrance. The usual times for visitation are: the anniversary of a death, the erection of a tombstone, the national mourning day of Tisha B’Av, the entire month of Elul (prior to Rosh Hashanah), and, for the Chasidic rabbis, during a time of crisis.135

Upon arrival at the cemetery, one who has not visited within the previous thirty days should recite a special blessing. Additional appropriate readings have been included in many of the prayerbooks published throughout the centuries.

More Recent Developments

This concludes the examination of Jewish practice from the perspective of the various principles. We would be remiss, however, if we neglected to address a few of the more recent developments within our contemporary society. Two very popular issues are the care for the dying and the psychology of grief. We will proceed, therefore, to offer comments on these two issues, based both on a traditional Jewish perspective as well as on contemporary interpretations of Jewish practice.

The Dying–Further Jewish Insights

The Jewish sources do not contain abundant references to the dying and their care. Prior to the recent advent of sophisticated medical knowledge and technology, the confirmed state of “dying” was a much less frequent phenomenon. Jewish authorities had fewer opportunities, therefore, to respond to this dimension of the human life cycle.136 We do find, nevertheless, additional insights to supplement those already discussed–insights that focus on many contemporary issues in the care and treatment of the dying patient.

The Ethical Will and the Confessional

In the early centuries of the Common Era, one finds examples of a dying person charging his offspring “…to carry on his way of life. We do not find any ethical wills in writing, but we do hear of many verbally delivered testaments of this character.”137

During the Middle Ages, this testament became a literary product, often quite elaborate and specific in its exhortations about morality and ritual observance. Those documents that remain extant testify to a well-established practice that constituted a unique human legacy for future generations 138

After the dying person has finished handling the remaining details concerning his worldly possessions, those present must encourage a confession (without causing undue distress, however). The standard formula of encouragement has been: “Many have confessed but did not die, while many who did not confess died; and as a reward for your confession, you will live, for whoever confesses has a portion in the world to come.”139 The traditional confessional prayer reads:

I acknowledge before You Lord my God and God of my fathers that both my healing and my death are in Your hands. May it be Your will to heal me in a complete recovery. If, though, I do die, may my death atone for all my sins and transgressions that I have committed before You. Grant me a share in the world to come.140

The confessional has a definite reassuring quality. It provides a structure for the dying person to express natural concerns and anxieties. Each of the procedures–the confession, the ordering of one’s material affairs, the blessing of family, and ethical instruction–“take into account the theological, practical, and emotional needs of the terminal patient. They enable the patient to express fears, find comfort and inner strength, and communicate meaningfully with those close to him.”141

While there seems to be some support for a totally honest and realistic handling of the approaching death with the patient, we find more evidence of a profound concern that the patient should not lose hope. “Before the end actually draws near, the mention of death is to be altogether avoided, so as not to make the patient aware of the seriousness of his condition and thus sap his strength.”142 The rabbis insist on maintaining the patient’s hopefulness, not merely by withholding information of his imminent death, but by positive means to encourage his confidence in recovery. “Even when the physician realizes that his patient approaches death, he should still order him to eat this and not to eat that, to drink this and not to drink that; but he should not tell him that the end is near.”143

The Response to Imminent Death

Despite efforts to conceal the full reality, dying persons make their own discoveries,144 and Jewish sources record reactions to the realization of an imminent death. The most famous passage is the extensive rabbinic legend concerning the death of Moses.145 The poignant account bears many similarities to recent accounts of the dying, most notably the work of Kubler-Ross.146 Though denial is hardly evident in Moses’ response, his anger is unmistakable—not a diffuse anger, but rather one directed squarely at God Himself. Moses’ dominant reaction is to bargain, with every option and possibility suggested and explored. A “broken heart” stage ensues (depression) , followed by gradual acceptance.147

Other examples of reactions to imminent death can be found in the vast literature about the lives of the great Hasidic masters who lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We find numerous examples of rabbis who faced their end with equanimity, involved to the last moment in the teaching and inspiring of their disciples. These intensely spiritual individuals confronted death with peaceful acceptance- a very challenging model for future generations.148


A cursory examination of sources and basic values can easily lead to a conclusion that Jewish tradition is opposed categorically to euthanasia. The decisive emphasis in Judaism on life makes such a conclusion quite compelling. Many of the key legal passages seem to reject the possibility of any justifying circunistances.149

A deeper probe reveals, however, that distinctions and qualifications do exist. Though respiration and cardiac action are taken as the basis for defining life and death (and not brain waves), some sources also state that the maximal time one can remain a goses (dying person) is approximately three days.150 What transpires after the three days is not clear.

A more decisive source develops the key distinction between overly delaying death and cutting short life.

It is written in Sefer Chassidim … that if a man was a goses and was unable to die until they put him in a different place, they should not move him. And he wrote: “If someone was a goses and there was near to his house someone chopping wood, and his (the goses’) soul was not able to leave, we remove the chopper from that place.” And these two instances do not contradict each other. For it is certainly forbidden to do something which would cause him not to die quickly. For example, to chop wood in order to delay the soul’s leaving quickly or to put salt on his tongue so that he will not die quickly are surely forbidden. And anything similar to these can be removed with full permission of the law. But to do something which causes his death to come sooner, to cause his soul to leave (ahead of schedule) is forbidden. Therefore, it is forbidden to move the goses from his place and set him in another place.151

A number of earlier Talmudic cases seem to confirm the permissibility of removing an obstacle and, thereby, sparing the goses additional agony. The most famous account concerns Rabbi Judah:

….The rabbis gathered in ceaseless prayer to keep Rabbi Judah alive, but his servant-maid, seeing how hopeless was his case and how much he suffered, prayed that he be given the privilege of death. When the rabbis insisted on praying that he be kept alive a little longer, she threw down from the roof a huge earthen jar in order to disturb them and stop their prayers so that Rabbi Judah might peacefully die. The Talmud (Ketuvot 104a) quotes this action of this learned woman with evident approval.152

Two modern legal interpreters, basing themselves on these sources, have developed the distinction between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia.153 Examples of active euthanasia are: drugs or treatments, voluntary or involuntary, with or without consent. Passive euthanasia is more akin to the removal of obstacles (even including certain medicaments).

The key question remains, however: Is an artificial respirator, or some other elaborate machinery, to be considered an obstacle?

Some recent rabbinical responsa, however, are inclined to sanction the cessation of “heroic methods” to prolong a lingering life without hope of recovery. The withdrawal of treatment under such circumstances might be justified on the basis of the permission to remove from a dying person an extraneous impediment, such as “a clattering noise or salt on his tongue, delaying the departure of his soul.”154

The various rabbinic opinions are far from unanimous; however, in a recent ruling by the Committee on Laws and Standards of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, the following interpretation was accepted:

….The removal of life support devices from patients whose condition is considered “hopeless” as described above (i.e., cessation of spontaneous brain function) is entirely consistent with Jewish law, and thus treatment decisions to this effect made in good conscience by competent physicians can be supported by rabbis in contact with the patient or the fainily.155

Cryonics–The Science of Freezing Bodies

Though this supposed medical breakthrough is only very recent (l967)156, sufficient time has elapsed for rabbinic authorities to begin, at least, to formulate a response to body freezing. The two basic principles involved in ruling on this development are (1) the commandment to preserve life and (2) the commandment to bury the dead immediately.

The material printed to date rules, for the most part, in favor of the permissibility of this practice. Its permissibility rests on the potential preservation of life that could result once successful revival is an accomplished fact. The grave consequences of cryonics on a sociological and theological level have not received, thus far, the serious attention which they unquestionably deserve. A comprehensive consideration of cryonics from a Jewish perspective will probably appear at some future date following more experience with this relatively new phenomenon.157

Judaism and the Psychology of Bereavement

Though the general psychological literature on grief is certainly not part of the Jewish tradition, any student of the Jewish approach to mourning must consider the currant state of psychological knowledge in this area. We include this section with full cognizance of the potential pitfalls of over-psychologizing the Jewish bereavement practices;158 however, psychological benefit is indeed one major rationale for the mourning legislation. An evaluation of the psychological wisdom of the traditions is therefore in order. The contemporary popularity of psychology and its related disciplines makes this assessment all the more timely and necessary.

The Nature of Grief

A comprehensive exposition on the nature of grief is beyond the scope of this study; nevertheless, the presentation of general research conclusions is possible and necessary for our purposes.

The seminal article on this subject, by the famous psychiatrist Erich Lindemann, appeared in 1944.159 Building on the earlier work of Freud,160 Lindemann conducted elaborate clinical work and, thereby, reached certain rather definite conclusions. “The picture shown by persons in acute grief is remarkably uniform.”161 He distinguished five clearly evident symptoms:

1. somatic distress (sighing respiration, lack of strength, and digestive symptoms);

2. preoccupation with the image of the deceased

3. guilt (self-accusations of negligence and exaggeration of minor omissions)

4. hostility (loss of warmth, tendency to respond with irritability and anger, preference not to be bothered by others, formalized, still social interaction); and

5. loss of patterns of conduct (restlessness and aimlessness, incapacity to initiate organized patterns of activity, adherence to daily routine but with excessive effort upon realizing the great part played by the deceased in this routine, no retardation in speech–especially when talking about the deceased).162

The duration of these symptoms (normally four to six weeks) and their healthy or pathological resolutions depend on the success with which a person does the “grief work”- -what Freud called “the work of mourning.” Grief work entails: (1) emancipation from the bondage of the deceased (accepting the reality of the death); (2) readjusting to the environment in which the deceased is missing (detachment, reality testing without resorting to defenses); and (3) the formation of new relationships.163 Another psychiatrist has encapsulated this process very succinctly: “Mourning is essentially a process of unlearning the expected presence of the deceased.”164

The importance of successful grief management cannot be overestimated. “The recognition of death is a necessity for continuing life, and grief is a necessary and unavoidable process in normative psychological functioning.”165

Mourning is, of course, not to be understood only as the painful affect but also as the totality of the individual’s response to a major loss; mourning manifests not only the wound but also the healing process. The healing process, in turn, is itself the integrative function of the mind–the capacity for psychological growth as the latter is called forth in an emergency situation.166

Failure to grieve, usually manifested by common defenses against the grief work, can have very serious repercussions. “The inability to mourn leads to personal disintegration, the upshot of which is mental illness.”167 The defenses, which block the mourning process, are well known: denial, repression, regression, self-punishment, and projection. The use of these mechanisms resolves nothing; they are “expedient ways adopted by the ego to prevent emotional collapse and to preserve itself in any way possible. Misused, however, each of these defenses can lead to further complications.”168 The complications are we1l-documented by clinical and empirical research; manic depression169 and delinquency170 are two of the more common difficulties discussed in the literature.

The General Value of Ritual

A major source of anxiety within the mourner is the fear of not being able to control his environment. The initial impact of the loss is overwhelming, and the decisions necessary to manage basic human affairs seem onerous. Prescribed rituals help the mourner gain control over his feelings, and the repetition of certain basic actions lends additional structure.171 Difficult decision-making is kept to a minimum.

One gain from ceremony and from customs surrounding ceremony is that bereaved people do not have to make difficult decisions. To the extent that behavior promoting adjustment to death is required by custom, people are spared the anxiety of deciding whether to engage in the behavior and do not risk foregoing behavior that facilitates adjustment.172

The time element in the mourning is certainly crucial, but the mourner is confused about the exact duration. What is appropriate and when to terminate and resume normal activity are agonizing dilemmas for a bereaved individual. A proscribed ritual containing specific periods of mourning answers the harrowing questions by providing “a sense of regularity and security to the mourner.

Regulated sequences are marked by specific duties, clearly elucidated rites, and certain cultural expectations. The time it takes to work through grief is not a meaningless continuum, but a wisely structured sequence. This helps the mourner to feel that he has some control over the bereavement situation, and will be able to readjust to life without the deceased.173

The Jewish Mourning Rituals

The Jewish way of mourning provides an excellent illustration of ritual useful to a mourner. The home religious services in the morning and evening as well as the recitation of the kaddish (even up to the eleven months for parents) exemplify the structure and repetition that are so beneficial. In its recognition of the time factor, Judaism reveals deep sensitivity to the needs of the bereaved.174 In our discussion of the venting of emotions, we saw the carefully constructed sequence of Jewish mourning, from pro-burial until a full year. The intensity of the grief gradually decreases as the mourner is gently, but firmly, guided back to full living.

This principle of gradually tapering off the severity of grief in the course of time is extended to many specific enactments. A mourner is required, for example, to remain in his house during the period of shivah. In the second week it is permissible for him to leave his house, but lie must sit in a different seat in the Synagogue for that week. In the third week, he can sit in his usual place, but he is not allowed to speak. Then in the following week, “he is like any other person.” This law is extended to a period of twelve months when the deceased is a parent.175

The divisions between the mourning phases are very clearly specified: the closing of the grave to mark the commencement of avelut, and the morning service’s conclusion on the seventh and thirtieth days to signal the end of shivah and shloshim. We have mentioned the insistence on terminating each phase at the appropriate time. Not only the mourner, but the community as well, must be aware of the conclusion:

That the community, too, is expected to recognize the specific termination of avelut is brought out in the following account: If one meets another mourner after twelve months and tenders him (the words of) conso1ation, to what can he be likened? To (the case of) a man who had his leg broken and healed when a physician met him and said to him, Come to me and let me break it and set it (again), to convince you that my medicaments are good.176

The Jewish tradition does not stop, however, at this level of generality. Specific rituals are ordained to facilitate three-part process of grief work.

The first stage, acceptance of death’s reality, needs little elaboration in this context. The section on realism contains ample evidence of how this principle is made functional.177

The second element in grief work, the detachment from the deceased, is potentially the most complex. How does one go about readjusting to an environment devoid of a loved one? Practically speaking, the mourner must not become fixated on feelings of guilt, anger, or general ambivalence; such feelings, when excessive, mitigate against a smooth detachment process. Starting prior to death, the traditional guidelines address themselves to these potential obstacles and eventually help the mourner toward a successful resolution. The injunction against leaving the bedside of the dying assures the mourner that everything was done. The community’s presence at that moment adds further reassurances. Following death, the mourner’s status of onen frees him to devote his total energies toward serving the dead person while, at the same time, overcoming (through his activity) “his wish for identification and incorporation with the lost loved one.”178

The requirements of simplicity and equality contribute toward averting a number of psychological pitfalls:

The religious prescription for plain, unadorned, simple coffins and for the avoidance of ostentation in the funeral itself serves as a deterrent to the excessive expenditure of family funds for irrational reasons. This expense is often the way that the family represses its guilt over past treatment of the dead or defends itself against its feelings of anger because the loved one has abandoned them. These feelings need to be worked through as a normal part of the process of grief so that later the memories of the deceased can be enjoyed without pain or avoidance. The working through of ambivalent feelings toward the dead by members of the family is extremely important in order to avoid later psychosomatic damage.179

The shivah regulations continue to wage the campaign against excessive guilt. The kaddish and the Tziduk Hadin at the grave, in their references to God, help to remove any feelings of responsibility for the death that the mourner might harbor deep inside. Through the many deprivations and abstentions of the shivah week, the mourner engages in a controlled form of self-punishment that offers significant alleviation from guilt feelings. Keriah, low stools, no work, no sex, and no shaving all reinforce the humiliation and punishment. “All those relatively innocuous vehicles of abstention, self-humiliation, and mild self-punishment are the substitute forms that Judaism developed to sublimate the impulse of self-mutilation which it wished to counteract.”180 The mourner certainly has the chance to give vent to his guilt, but the rituals ensure that the guilt will not be nurtured excessively.

Overcoming guilt and anger is not sufficient, however, to achieve a successful detachment from the deceased. Lindemann himself observed that mourners can sometimes refuse even to mention the deceased lest they break down and lose control. Jewish practice, in full consonance with psychological understanding, insists upon an open and visible grief: for example, the prohibition on comforting initially and the eulogy (one purpose of which was to awaken tears through the fu1ler realization of the depth of the loss). The shivah period also provides an ideal framework for actually talking about the deceased–at first, the events that led up to the death, followed by recollections from the entire life that was lived. By stipulating that comforters must allow the mourner to initiate conversation, the rabbis have instituted a mechanism to ensure that the mourner can address his own agenda.181

The particular beauty of the shivah experience is that the formation of new relationships, the third aspect of grief work, takes place simultaneously with the recollection and detachment. At a shivah home (and even at the funeral), the mourner is the focus of attention. Those present listen to the mourner’s words very carefully and with sympathy and comfort. Everyone shares in the grief, and many non-mourners may have stories of their own to recount about their experiences with the deceased. This intense sharing provides a very natural context for the mourner to cement new ties with those around him.

The progression in the laws concerning greetings chart the mourner’s integration back into society:

For the first few days the mourner cannot readily give to others; but he has a profound need to receive. For the next few days he learns gradually to relate to others, but still in a passive, receptive way. After shivah is completed and for the duration of avelut, the mourner tries to give as well as to receive, to experience reciprocity and relatedness.182

The Psychological Wisdom of the Jewish Way

From this analysis, though brief, one must conclude that the Jewish mourning practices are psychologically sound. A sampling of opinion from the literature will serve to corroborate this viewpoint. The first passage was written by a non-Jew.

There is an innate wisdom in the evolution of accepted mourning periods such as the three days sometimes accepted by Christians, or the seven days better observed by Jews. In the shivah period for Jews, there is an intensive mourning and special prayers for the dead throughout the day. Visitors come to the house, where the chief mourners remain, and speak to them of the deceased, bringing considerable comfort. More normal life is resumed after this week although there are still some mourning observances prescribed. In England, religion does not give to most people such a clear guide to the length of mourning, and the previous social conventions which dictated matters have almost disintegrated.183

The Jewish tradition, seasoned by centuries of experience in suffering and surviving, provides this kind of a network of ways in which to affirm life in the face of death. It is a tradition that contains the wisdom that enables us to express our grief, to strengthen our family and community ties, to honor God, and to accept His will.184


We have examined in this chapter the key aspects of the Jewish tradition in dying, death, and bereavement. The seven principles have enabled us to organize a vast body of material into a mare manageable format. The reader has also learned of more recent developments with respect to the dying and the research in the psychology of bereavement.

Many considerations for the deliberation can emerge from this material. To assist the users of this study, we include below five key considerations as a useful starting point for the discussion of this perspective. Additional points will certainly appear as the deliberations progress.

  1. The notion of profit-making on death was virtually unknown in traditional sources and in Jewish practice throughout the ages.
  2. The Jewish grief cycle is psychologically sound, based on the current state of knowledge about bereavement.
  3. Traditionally, Jews have observed the prescribed practices and observances as they are presented within Jewish sources.
  4. Jewish tradition has constantly been applied (and continues to be applied) to new situations that arise. We get a sense of a dynamic heritage which responds to social stimuli.
  5. The traditional material as presented in this chapter is meant for the deliberators. We must consider how the traditional perspectives are to be transmitted to the adolescents (questions of format, personnel, locale, thoroughness, etc.).



1See the Bibliography for the major examples: Demberg, Lamm, and Tucatzinsky.

2Within the discussion of each principle, however, one will find a fairly chronological sequence.

3For some observances, we will include footnotes about previous rationales and superstitions.

4Hayyim Schauss, The Lifetime of a Jew (Cincinnati, Ohio: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1950), p. 250. The major change and evolution in practice took place before between the end of the Biblical period and the middle Rabbinic period.

5References to these principles can be found in much of the literature.

6Mishnah, Peah 1:1.

7Talmud Bavli, Nedarim, 40b.

8Talmud Bavli, Nedarim, 40b; Isaac Klein, “Course in Jewish Life and Practice” (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America), Unit XVI, p. 3 (mimeographed).

9One of the earliest and most famous societies was founded in 1306 by Rabbi Nissim Gerondi.

10Eliezar Landshuth, Bikur Cholim, Ma’avar Yabok, and Sefer Hachayim (Berlin, 1867).

11The word means one who brings up a secretion in his throat on account of the narrowing of his chest.

12Talmud Bavli, Shavuot 12b.

13Dov Zlotnick, The Tractate “Mourning (Semachot) Regulations Relating to Death, Burial, and Mourning” (New Haven, Connecticut, and London, England: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 31.

14Talmud Bavli, Berachot 18b; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 339.4

15Leopold Greenwald, ed., Kol Ba Al Avelut (New York: Philipp Feldheim, Inc., 1947), pp 22-23.

16Schauss, p. 261.

17Landshuth, pp. 42-54, 68-74; Greenwald, p. 23. A separate section on additional aspects relating to the dying will be found toward the end of the chapter, following the seventh principle.

18Talmud Bavli, Berachot 18b.

19Talmud Bavli, Berahchot 18a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 373.5.

20Some sources trace this practice to the necessity of protecting the body from harm. See Jules Harlow, ed., The Bond of Life: A Book for Mourners (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 1975), p. 8.

21Solomon Ganzfried, ed. , Code of Jewish Law (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch), trans. Hyman E. Goldin (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., Inc. 1927), 193.2.

22Greenwald, p. 89.

23Maimnon ben Reuben Abo, Chesed V’Emet (Leghorn, Italy, 1886), pp. 14-19.

24Authorities disagree on whether one of the four fringes of the shawl must be cut before the closing of the coffin.

25Schauss, pp. 235-36.

26Tur Shulchan Aruch, 344.

27Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 27b.

28Greenwald, p. 36.

29Maurice Lamm, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 1972), pp. 53-54.

30Genesis 3:19; Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

31Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 47b.

32Greenwald, p. 173. Prior to these rationales, it was certainly rather popular for individuals to fear the body of the deceased–hence, a speedy and sure burial in the ground.

33Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 357.1.

34Rabbinical Assembly, “Summary of Legal Decisions on Mourning and Funerals” (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1976), p. 12 (mimeographed).

35Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 344.16; Yechiel Tucatzinsky, Gesher Ha-chayim (Jerusalem: Solomon Press, 1960),pp. 66-67; Greenwald, p. 167.

36This subject is highly controversial; its subtleties are beyond the scope of this analysis.

37Greenwald, p. 51; Isaac Klein, p. 9.

38Greenwald, p. 223.

39Isaac Klein, Unit XVII, p. 16.

40Mishnah, Avot 2:10.

41Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 339.4.

42Tucatzinsky, p. 56.

43Job 1:22.

44Tucatzinsky, p. 48; Hyman F. Goldin, Hamadrikh: The Rabbi’s Guide (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1956), p.108.

45Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “The Halakhah of the First Day,” Jewish Reflections on Death, ed. Jack Riemer (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), pp. 76, 78.

46Audrey Gordon, “The Psychological Wisdom of the Law,” Jewish Reflections on Death, ed. Jack Riemer, p. 100.

47See Emanuel Feldman, “Death as Estrangement: The Halakhah of Mourning,” Judaism, 21 (Winter, 1972), 59-66.

48Mishnah, Avot 4.18.

49Lamm, pp. 14-15.

50Talmud Bavli, Baba Batra 100b; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 358.3 (gloss).

51Ganzfried, 199.9.

52Lamm, p. 62.

53Greenwald, p. 216.

54Samuel Dresner, The Jew in American Life (New York: Crown Publishers, 1963), p. 21.

55Schauss, pp. 231-48; A. P. Bender, “Beliefs, Rites, and Customs of the Jews, Connected with Death, Burial, and Mourning,” Jewish Quarterly Review, 7 (1895), 262-63.

56Bender, p. 262. Rabban Gamaliel lived during the late first and early second centuries of the Common Era.

57Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 27b; Zlotnick, p. 72.

58Zlotnick, p. 72.

59Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 352.

60Lamm, p. 7.

61We must point out, however, that flowers are usually used in Israel, even within the most traditional circles.

62Greenwald, p. 175.

63Schauss, pp. 244-45.

64Schauss, p. 265.

65Rudolf Iltis, “The Prague Chevra Kaddisha,” The Jewish Spectator, 29 (September, 1964), 15-16.

66Women were also involved in the Chevra Kaddisha; the bodies of women must be washed by women.

67Schauss, pp. 262-67.

68Greenwald, p. 38.

69Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 343; Tucatzinsky, p. 127.

70Greenwald, p. 106.

71The specific foods served will be discussed under the “affirmation of life” principle.

72Goldin, p. 141.

73The thirty-day period is discussed in the next section on the venting of emotions.

74Traditionally, ten men were required; however, within the Conservative and Reform movements, there has been a rather dramatic shift toward granting equality to women in ritual matters.

75See articles in Riemer, pp. 166-68, 169-72, and 173-77.

76Two prominent examples are: Abraham mourning for Sarah (Genesis 23) and David mourning for Saul and Jonathan (II Samuel 1).

77Talmud Bavli, Nazir l5b; Tur Shulchan Aruch, 375 and 398; Tucatzinsky, p. 179.

78These relationships are derived from Leviticus 21:1-3 where the seven are listed as those relationships for which a Priest could defile himself–i.e., by attending the funeral.

79Soloveitchik, p. 83.

80lrwin w. Kidorf, “Jewish Tradition and the Freudian Theory of Mourning,” Journal of Religion and Health, 2 (1962-1963), 248-52; Kidorf, “The Shiva: A Form of Group Psychotherapy,” Journal of Religion and Health, 5 (1966), 43-47; Simon Noveck, ed., Judaism and Psychiatry (New York: Basic Books, 1956), pp. 105ff.; C.Z. Roswaski, “Qn Jewish Mourning Psychology,” Judaism, 17 (Summer, 1968), 535-45, Feldman praises Maurice Lamm’s work; however, he notes that Lamm does revert on occasion to excessive psychologizing (e.g., pp. 77ff.).

81Feldman, p. 62.

82Tucatzinsky, p. 181.

83Gordon, p. 103.

84Soloveitchik, p. 79.

85Exception is made, however, for the two rows of comforters at the gravesite, following the burial.

86Tucatzinsky, p. 214.

87Schauss, pp. 238-40.

88Talmud Bavli, Ketubot 103; Tucatzinsky, p. 198.

89Lamm, p. 101.

901f it is impossible for ten people to get to the house of mourning at the appropriate hours, the mourner is then permitted to go to the synagogue for the services, followed by an immediate return home.

91Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 380.5.

92Zlotnick, p. 78.

93Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 390.1.

94Lamm, pp 4-5, 102-5.

95Tur Shulchan Aruch, 381.

96Tur Shulchan Aruch, 384.

97A very excellent one is Harlow’s The Bond of Life, especially pp. 35-69.

98Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 22b; Zlotnick, p. 9; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 393.2.

99Tur Shulchan Aruch, 382; Tucatzinsky, p. 221.

100Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 390.1. Much documentation exists concerning the superstitious connection between the sexual act and death. See Feldman, p. 66, for references.

101Harlow, p. 16.

102At first kaddish was recited for twelve months after death, corresponding to the period in which wicked people were kept in Gehenna atoning for wrongdoings committed during their lifetimes, according to the predominant view of the rabbis of the Talmud. Later, the kaddish period was curtailed to eleven months, in order that the dead parent should not appear to be wicked’ (Schauss, p. 296).

103Tucatzinsky, p. 59.

104Jeremiah 22:10; Talmud Bavil, Moed Katan 27b Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 395-394.

105Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 541; Greenwald, p. 111.

106Harlow, p. 31.

107Gordon, p. 96.

108Many Jews today choose to observe the full eleven months for all relatives, not only for parents.

109Evelyn Garfiel, The Service of the Heart (New York: Thomas Yaseloff, 1959), p. 112.

110Lamm, pp. 155-60.

111Soloveitchik, p. 80.

1l2II Samuel 3:55; Spiro, p. 57.

113See pages l06~l07.

114 Lamm, p. 99.

115Gordon, p. 100

116Harlow, p. 14; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 552.4.

117Lamm, pp. 184-85.

118See Lamm, pp 185-86. He offers two examples of justifiable extenuating circumstances: a military draft which is to take place before the end of shloshim; and the case of a childless groom for whose wedding preparations have already been made, and postponement would lead to severe financial loss.

119The festivals involved are: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot.

120Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 14b.

121Shloma Riskin, “Grief Takes a Holiday: Why Mourning is Suspended During Festivals,” Response, 8 (Summer, 1974), 101. One must acknowledge the hardship that this regulation places on the bereaved family; grief and support are delayed or cancelled. In this case, the insistence on the continuation of life seems a bit harsh, for two principles–venting emotions and affirmation of 1ife–are in tension.

122 Tucatzinsky, pp. 269-70; Fred Rosner, Modern Medicine and Jewish Law (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1972), p.191.

123Zlotnick, p. 33.

124Greenwald, p. 319; Isaac Klein, Unit XVI, p. 17

l25The debate, however, was never totally concluded.

126George F. Moore, Judaism, Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927), pp. 319-21.

127Earl A. Grollman, ed., Concerning Death: A Practical Guide for the Living (Boston: Beacon Press, 1974), pp. 129-34.

128Rabbi Robert Gordis, “On the Hereafter” in Harlow, pp. 67-69.

129Abraham Millgram, Jewish Worship (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1971), p. 449.

130Tucatzinsky, p. 335; Shulchan Aruch, Orah Chayyim 621.6.

131The kaddish prayer itself, however, cannot be recited privately.

132Millgram, p. 448.

133Schauss, p. 246; Greenwald, pp. 162~63.

134See Goldin, pp. 164ff. The Psalms cited are numbers 90, 91, 102, 103, and 104.

135Schauss, pp. 269-70.

136David Leigh Lerner, “On Death and Dying–Jewishly,” The Reconstructionist, 40 (February, 1974), 11.

137Schauss, p. 230.

138Israel Abrahams, Hebrew Ethical Wills (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1948).

139Shulchan Aruch, Yoroh De’ah 378.1.

140Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 378.2; Immanuel Jakobovits, .Jewish Medical Ethics (New York. Philosophical Library, 1959), p. 120.

141Zachary I. Heller, ‘The Jewish View of Death: Guidelines for Dying,” Death: The Final Stage of Growth, ed. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975), pp. 40-41.

142Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 338-339.

143Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 338-339.

144Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1969), p. 262 [hereafter cited as On Death]

145Midrash Rabbah on Deuteronomy.

146Kubler-Ross, On Death; Lerner, pp. 11-15.

147Lerner, pp. 14-15.

148lllustrative accounts of the deaths of the Chasidic masters can be found in the Histalkut Hanefesh. See Samuel Dresner, The Deaths of the Chasidic Masters, ‘ Jewish Reflections on Death, ed. Jack Riemer (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), pp. 24-30.

149Zlotnick, Semahot 1:1-4; Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 151b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning 4:5; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 339.

1505ee Jakobovits, p. 305, for references.

151Darchei Moshe commentary on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 339.

152Alan D. Bennett, “Teaching Material,” Keeping Posted, 17 (March, 1972), 18.

153Jakobovits, pp. 123-24; Rosner, p. 108.

154Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 6, p. 980.

155Rabbinical Assembly, Proceedings of the Seventy-Sixth Annual Convention, March 28 to April 1, 1976 (Grossinger, New York: Grossinger’s, 1976), pp. 317-18.

156The medical soundness of the entire cryonics movement has been seriously questioned since the first body was actually frozen in the mid-1960s. There seems to be ample evidence that successful revival of human cells from a frozen state remains beyond the present reach of medical science.

157Azriel Rosenfeld, “Refrigeration, Resuscitation, and the Resurrection,” Tradition, 9 (Fall, 1967), 82-94

158Feldman, pp. 59-60.

159Erich Lindemann, “Symptomatology and. Management of Acute Grief,” American Journal of Psychiatry, 101 (September, 1944), 141-48.

160Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia,” Collected Papers, Vol. 4 (London, England: Hogarth Press, pp. 152-72

161Lindemann, p. 144.

162Lindemann, pp. 142-45.

163Lindemann, p. 143; Jack D. Spiro, A Time to Mourn: Judaism and the Psychology of Bereavement (New York: Bloch Publishing Co. , 1967), p. 107.

164Vivian Rackoff, ‘Psychiatric Aspects of Death in America,’ Social Research, 39 (Autumn, 1972), 525.

165Rackoff, p. 525.

166Joseph H. Snith, “The Work of Mourning,” Bereavement: Its Psychological Aspects, ed. Bernard Schoenberg et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), p. 24.

167Ear1 A. Grollman, ed., Explaining Death to Children (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1967), p. 21.

168Spiro, p. 30.

169Melanie Klein, “Mourning and Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21 (April, 1940), 125-53.

170Marvyn Shoor and Mary H. Speed, Delinquency as a Manifestation of the Mourning Process,” Psychiatric Quarterly, 37 (1963), 540-58.

171Spiro, p. 121.

172Paul C. Rosenblatt, “Uses of Ethnography in Understanding Grief and Mourning,” Bereavement: Its Psychological Aspects, ed. Bernard Schoenberg et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), p. 44

173Spiro, p. 135.

174Furthermore, an accepted principle governing mourning is that the law always follows the authority of the more lenient views (Talmud Bavil, Moed Katan 17b-18a)–thereby avoiding most of the excessive restrictions and better serving the needs of the mourner.

175Spiro, p. 136.

176Spiro, p. 137 (incident cited in Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 21b).

177See pp. 104-8 above.

178Gordon, p. 97.

179Gordon, p. 98.

180Spiro, p. 73.

181Lindemann and other researchers confirm the fact that most mourners, if given an opportunity, have a great desire to talk about the deceased.

182Spiro, pp. 133-34.

183John Hinton, Dying (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 188.

184Gordon, p. 103; Harlow, p. 31.