Jewish Cemetery Trust

Funeral and burial customs

A Jewish funeral, or levaiyah, takes place as soon as possible after a death, although not on Shabbat or Yom Tov. Conducted by a Rabbi, the service consists of several psalms; the traditional memorial prayer, El Maleh Rachamim; and a short hesped, or eulogy.

Usually, the funeral is held at the Chevra Kadisha building in Woollahra. Members of the Chevra arrange the mourners’ transport to the funeral, from the funeral to the burial, and return them to the house.

The customary Jewish expression of condolence is “ Hamakom yenachem etchem b’toch sh’ar avaylay tsiyon viyerushalayim, May the Almighty comfort you together with all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”.

Tearing the clothes

As a sign of their loss, mourners tear a visible part of their clothes, such as a lapel or pocket, just before the funeral. Sometimes this ritual, called kria, becomes part of the funeral service, and while many mourners make the tear themselves, some Rabbis prefer to do it for them. People who are mourning a parent make the tear or cut their garments on the left side, closer to the heart. Those mourning a sibling, spouse or child, tear their garments on the right side.

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