web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



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
US Marines walk a city street in Fallujah, heavily damaged by the fighting. (2004)
Netanyahu Says Making Gaza ‘Israel’s Fallujah’ Was Too High a Price
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

Stroll through formal gardens, ride mountain bikes, or go rock climbing.

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: