Jewish Cemetery Trust

Caring for the dying and deceased

Jewish laws and customs provide a clear framework for managing a death, including what to do immediately before and afterwards.

When death is imminent, call a rabbi. The rabbi will provide spiritual and practical support, advice and assistance, including notifying the Chevra Kadisha.

A person in his or her final moments of life is known as a Goses because the Divine Presence, the Shechinah, stands at his/her head. The dying individual is treated with the same respect rendered to a living person and not as an object or as one to be avoided. Everything possible must be done to keep the person alive, even if that means breaking the rules of Shabbat or Yom Tov.

A dying person should not be left alone for even a minute. Loved ones who are present should provide psychological comfort. You may recite psalms and prayers.

For those present at the moment of death it is appropriate to recite three times: “Adonai Melech , Adonai Malach, Adonai Yimloch l’olam voed, The Lord is King, the Lord was King, the Lord shall be King for ever and ever”. This may be followed by: “Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Praised is the True Judge”.

For those left behind, the period between the loved one’s death and the funeral is the first of four stages of mourning. See the stages of mourning page for more detail.

The body of the deceased must not be left unattended. The practice of watching over the body of the deceased is called Shmira. The Chevra Kadisha will remove the body of the deceased to be prepared for burial and will continue to watch over the deceased until the burial.

Funeral rituals

In preparing the body for burial, the Chevra Kadisha performs rituals at its purpose-built premises in Woollahra. Tahara, the cleansing of the deceased, is a religious act.

The Chevra Kadisha carries out the ritual as a chessed shel emet

The Chevra then dress the body in shrouds called tachrichim. These are simple, perfectly clean white garments. Men may be wrapped in their own tallit, or, if the family wishes to pass on that tallit to a family member, in a new tallit. The tzitzit on the corners of the tallit are trimmed off because it can no longer be used for praying.

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