The truest Jewish act of kindness that can never be repaid is honoring our dead. The Traditional Congregation of Mt. Dora's Chevra Qadisha does just that. The Chevra Qadisha volunteers provide the important service of making sure that Jewish individuals in Lake County are properly prepared for burial and are properly attended to until internment. The TCOMD Chevra Qadisha is a part of the Cemetery committee that also oversees all facets of death and burial for our members.
Chevra Qadisha means "Sacred Society," but it is more commonly translated as "Jewish Burial Society." The tradition of having a Chevra Qadisha goes back more than 2000 years. As Jewish communities formed throughout the world, a Chevra Qadisha was one of the first groups to be organized in each community. It was, and is, considered a great honor to be a member, and its work is considered nothing less than holy. Their work is called chesed shel emeth, the ultimate good deed, since they can never be repaid for their kindness. Indeed, they are often called upon to serve with little or no notice, since they must spring into action promptly upon death.
The primary function of a Chevra Qadisha is the preparation and burial of the deceased in accordance with Jewish law (halachah). The three major aspects of the work are: Shmira (maintaining a vigil so that the deceased's body is never left alone, it is designed to comfort the neshama (soul) before it ascends to heaven); Tahara (the preparation of a deceased's body involving washing and dressing, by someone of the same gender, accompanied by prayers seeking forgiveness from the deceased and asking for eternal peace), and Tachrichim (clothing the body in shrouds of simple, hand-made, white linen, and, if appropriate, a tallit). Notably, the Tachrichim are in the form of a hat, shirt, pants, shoes, coat and belt, but do not have pockets signifying that no material possessions go along on the final journey. The garments are modeled on the uniform that the Kohen Gadol (high priest) wore into the Holy Temple once a year on Yom Kippur.
Once a year, Chevra Qadisha organizations throughout the world gather to remember those who have passed away during the previous year. This date is always in the month of Adar, which is the month of Moses' birth and death. TCOMD Chevra Qadisha commemorates its dead each year with a gathering and dinner. The Chevra Qadisha also conducts training sessions for those interested in assisting in this worthy cause.
If you have questions about Chevra Qadisha, its operations and programs or are interested in training to become a volunteer, please contact Robb Seltzer at Chevra@TCOMD.org or 407-948-9943.
·When a death occurs, contact the Rabbi. The Rabbi will contact a member of the Synagogue's Chevra Qadisha. If the Rabbi is not available, call Robb Seltzer (407-948-9943). Some people prefer to call the funeral home of their choice first.
·The Chevra Qadisha will perform the Tahara, the traditional ritual purification of the body and will clothe the body in the simple white shroud customary for Jewish burial. This ritual is required for a traditional Jewish burial. It is done as soon as possible after a death has occurred, preferably within 24 hours.
·The Tahara can be performed subsequent to organ donation.
·Jewish law prohibits autopsies in most circumstances. Contact the Rabbi before authorizing an autopsy.
·Neither embalming nor cosmetology or cremation is an appropriate procedure in Jewish burial.
·As a general rule, burial should occur as soon as possible after death.
·There is no public viewing of the body.
·The coffin must be completely wooden and is traditionally very simple in design.
·The coffin contains only the appropriately clad body of the deceased, free of jewelry or other objects.
·Floral arrangements are not customary at a Jewish funeral service.
·Monuments shall conform to the bylaws of the cemetery.
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