Tag Archives: burials

Burials in Judaism

I want to understand this. There are some Jewish burial societies that refuse to allow women to attend burials at their cemeteries. I recently attended the funeral of a lovely woman who had lived a long life, a life full of the joy of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Her daughter, and the deceased’s elderly sister, and all the women in the family were denied “permission” (I cannot even think of a better way to put it right now) to accompany the body from the funeral home, to its final resting place. This was a woman who had lost her mother, a mother who had been a major part of her life for 60 years! She needed to be there to say her final goodbyes. Her sister of almost 90 years, who went through the holocaust with her, lost family members with her, and made a new life here with her, was not allowed this final mitzvah of Halvayat Hamet (accompanying the dead).  If this woman’s burial plot had been in a different but still Jewish cemetery the women would have been allowed to be there.

I have a couple of friends who unfortunately have suffered the heartbreak of losing children and have had to bury their child. I cannot imagine how much worse their pain would have been had they been unable to be at the gravesite. It must have been torture to walk away from the gravesite, to leave their child there, cold, in the dank earth – but somehow it’s known that that is how it is supposed to be. That was the final chapter in this child’s / person’s life. It doesn’t make it easier to walk away, no, but there is a sense of closure.

I know the difference it makes not being at a gravesite. I know how much your heart suffers more when you haven’t had the closure of seeing that coffin lowered into the ground and covered with earth. I was not there to bury my father or my paternal grandparents. I was on the wrong side of the world. We had funerals for them in North America, and buried them in Israel. My maternal grandmother was buried in the UK, I couldn’t make it there in time. Your mind and soul need that finality. It takes so much longer to deal with a loss without it.

I just want to understand. We hurt too. We need to throw that earth on the coffin of our dearly departed relative and friend. How is this even close to being ok? And how is it acceptable in some cemeteries for women to be there, and some not? Are we not all Jews? What is the halacha here?

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