Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Ad Me'ah V'Esrim," until 120

"Ad Me'ah V'Esrim shannah,"
"May you live to be a hundred and twenty" is a very popular saying, wishing a person a "full life, " which equals one hundred and twenty years.
And only then should you die.

One of the reasons people, at least here in Israel, like to "delay death" is that the funerals in most of the cemeteries here are "unpleasant," to say the least. They are religious ceremonies run by the "Chevra Kadishe," "burial societies."

These burial societies control which burial plot you can have and many aspects of the funeral ceremony itself. In many of the cities, there are "local customs" that are forced on the bereaved family, even if the family never heard of the customs or has very different ones. Also most of the Chevra Kadishe are what's known as "chareidi," a style of Jewish Orthodoxy, not observed by most. So here a family at its most traumatized finds itself attending a funeral it can't relate to.

It's different in Shiloh and othe yishuvim, where we have our own "chevra kadishe" of our own friends and neighbors. We don't have any "customs" that restrict and limit women from the gravesite. All members of the family and friends speak, male and female, whatever ther bereaved family chooses. The only restrictions are those of straight halacha, and the halacha is very simple.

My in-laws are buried here, and I remember how comforting it was to have people we know dig the graves and bury the bodies.

Cremation is becoming a more accepted alternative to burial, especially for the non- Torah observant, who aren't comfortable with the standard Israeli funeral directed by the Chevre Kadishe. Too bad. There are other alternatives.

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