What is Chevra Kadisha?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaA chevra kadisha (Hebrew: holy society, better translated as "burial society") is a loosely structured but generally closed organization of Jewish men and women who see to it that the bodies of Jews are prepared for burial according to halacha (Jewish law) and are protected from desecration, willful or not, until burial. Two of the main requirements are the showing of proper respect for a corpse, and the ritual cleansing of the body and subsequent dressing for burial.
The task of the chevra kadisha is considered a laudable one, as tending to the dead is a favour that the recipient cannot return, making it devoid of ulterior motives. Its work is therefore referred to as a "chesed shel emeth" (a good deed of trust), paraphrased from Genesis 47:29 (where Joseph promises his father to bury him in the Land of Israel).
At the heart of the society's function is the ritual of tahara, or purification. The body is first thoroughly cleansed of dirt, body fluids and solids, and anything else that may be on the skin, and then it is ritually purified by immersion in, or a continuous flow of, water. Tahara may refer to either the entire process, or to the ritual purification. Once the body is purified, the body is dressed in tachrichim, or shrouds, white garments which are identical for each Jew and which symbolically recall the garments worn by the High Priest. Once the body is dressed, the casket is sealed.
The society may also provide shomrim, or watchers, to guard the body from death until burial (although in some communities this is done by people close to the departed). At one time, the danger of theft of the body was very real, now it has become a way of honoring the deceased.
A specific task for the burial society is tending to the dead who have no immediate next-of-kin. These are termed a "meth mitzvah" (a mitzvah corpse), as tending to a meth mitzvah overrides virtually any other positive Torah law.
Many burial societies hold one or two annual fast days and organise regular study sessions to remain up-to-date with the relevant articles of Jewish law. In addition, most burial societies also support families during the shiv'ah (traditional week of mourning) by arranging prayer services, meals and other facilities.
While burial societies were, in Europe, generally a community function, in America it has become far more common for societies to be organized by each synagogue. However, not every synagogue has such a society.
Members of Chevra kadisha of Alliance Cemetery:
- Updated list coming soon
- Tahara (Ritual Cleansing)
- Shomrim (Watchers of the body)
- Oversee maintenance of cemetery