web analytics
February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Chesed Shel Emet

Cooperman-020714

Most people would not want to spend the last part of their weekend in a dark funeral home or their cold mornings in the basement of a funeral parlor, but for the hundreds of chevra kadisha volunteers worldwide, it is not about what you want to do but what has to be done.

Sunday evenings are when Mary Ireland changes out of her heels and into comfortable flats. This is just one small part of her routine preparations for her role in the community chevra kadisha (literally, “The Holy Society”), a group that performs the ritual purifications on the deceased. Ireland was recruited over 20 years ago by her local group in Cleveland, Ohio and has been actively involved ever since. By now, Ireland’s children know not to plan visits for that time of the week, since they assume that their mother will most likely be out fulfilling this holy, yet often mysterious and misunderstood mission.

Marcello Weiss, also of Cleveland, Ohio, has been active on the men’s chevra kadisha crew for about 10 years. He was recruited in an attempt to draw younger men into the pool of volunteers. He admits he wouldn’t necessarily have reached out, as he didn’t feel confident that he would have the emotional fortitude required to conduct a tahara. In fact, as if being tested, Weiss recalls that his very first tahara was on a young man who was in a motorcycle accident; Weiss admits that it took him a couple of weeks to recover from the traumatic experience. However, he did not give up and was reassured that it would not always be so difficult and that moving forward, “it would only be uphill.”

Ireland relates one particularly difficult tahara that she and her crew performed on a young girl. The fact that she still had braces emphasized her youth and innocence, and the heartbreaking tragedy of her death.  Weiss, with similar anguish, discloses the painful memory of performing a tahara on a baby. It is these types of situations that make it clear this is not a job to which just anyone can commit.  Both have been approached by community members who say things like, “I don’t know how you do it.”  Ireland understands why some people would stay away from such a seemingly morbid task and admits that she sometimes doesn’t know how she does it either. She concludes matter-of-factly, that for whatever reason, she has been given the ability to successfully perform this specific mitzvah, along with her dedicated crew, and she is going to continue to do it for as long as she feels able.

While being part of a chevra kadisha is considered a chesed shel emet - kindness of truth (i.e. with pure intent), since one cannot be thanked by the recipient of the chesed, Ireland has been thanked by many community members for her kindness to their loved ones. Most often, they express how happy they are that a friend or trusted community member, and not a stranger, has performed their family member’s tahara.  Weiss has had similar experiences and has even been specifically requested to serve on a crew for people who know him personally.

Neither Ireland nor Weiss divulge details of the tahara ritual nor particulars of how it is performed, but they both reveal that the greatest concern is for the sensitive care, modesty and dignity of the deceased throughout the process. There is even a point during the tahara when crew members verbally, or internally, apologize to the deceased in case there was any inadvertent lapse of dignity.  In that vein, many chevrei kadisha crews across the world institute a fast day for its participants, to atone for any mistakes made during the purification process. It is widely accepted that the volunteers fast on the 7th of Adar, the birthday and day of death of Moshe Rabbeinu (which happens to be Ireland’s birthday as well). The establishment of this fast day further accentuates the severity of the duties of the chevra kadisha, and the gravity of the command to treat the departed with utmost respect.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Chesed Shel Emet”

  1. Truly amazing how even the topic of caring for the dead brings out the imbecilic, moronic and idiotic – right, Shakir Sha?

  2. Sonia Morris says:

    He is absolutely a moron.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Historic Jewish U.S. Civil War period restaurant tokens.
Jewish Money in the Civil War to be Shown in Jerusalem
Latest Sections Stories
South-Florida-logo

The musical production was beautifully performed by the middle school students.

South-Florida-logo

Greige offered a post of her own. She said, “I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel.” She contends that she was photobombed.

South-Florida-logo

This year, 40 couples were helped. The organization needs the support of the extended Jewish community so that it can continue in its important work.

In the introduction to the first volume, R. Katz discusses the Torah ideal, arguing that the Torah’s laws are intended to craft the perfect man and are not to be regarded as ends unto themselves.

A highlight of the evening was the video produced by the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center on the legendary Agudah askan Reb Elimelech (Mike) Tress, a true Jewish hero.

Until recently his films were largely forgotten, but with their release last year on DVD by Re:Voir Video in Paris they are once again available.

Though the CCAR supported the Jewish right to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, it strenuously objected to defining Palestine as the Jewish homeland.

“Well, you are also part of this class! If someone drills a hole in the boat, the boat will ultimately sink, and even the innocent ones will perish as well. The whole class must be punished!”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I find his mother to be a difficult person and my nature is to stay away from people like that.

Here are some recipes to make your Chag La’Illanot a festive one.

Does standing under the chuppah signal the end of our dream of romance and beautiful sunsets?

We aren’t at a platform; we are underground, just sitting there.

More Articles from Sara Ireland-Cooperman
Cooperman-020714

The greatest concern is for the sensitive care, modesty and dignity of the deceased throughout the process. There is even a point during the tahara when crew members verbally, or internally, apologize to the deceased in case there was any inadvertent lapse of dignity.

For Rabbi Dovid Hoffman what started as a modest weekly newsletter 12 years ago has evolved beyond his greatest expectations. That unassuming publication known as “Torah Tavlin” is now distributed to thousands of Jewish readers around the globe. It has emerged into the form of a new full-length book of the same name, published by Israel Book Shop.

For Rabbi Dovid Hoffman what started as a modest weekly newsletter 12 years ago has evolved beyond his greatest expectations. That unassuming publication known as “Torah Tavlin” is now distributed to thousands of Jewish readers around the globe. It has emerged into the form of a new full-length book of the same name, published by Israel Book Shop.

The term caravan often evokes images of weary travelers on camelback, nomads crossing through endless desert with no particular aim, and drifters and loners with regard for no one but themselves and the open road.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/feautures-on-jewish-world/chesed-shel-emet/2014/02/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: