Why do Jewish Funerals Happen so Quickly?

Why do Jewish Funerals Happen so Quickly?

Within the Jewish faith, a funeral usually occurs very soon after a person dies. Traditionally, this was as quick as 24 hours (or even sooner). However, today’s end-of-life services are often performed with a slightly longer gap between the death and the farewell gathering. 

This is purely down to logistics. Families tend to be more scattered—both across the US and the world. By extending this in-between period, it gives loved ones a chance to travel what can often be considerable distances to attend the event.

But why do Jewish funerals happen so quickly? The simple answer is the beliefs surrounding what happens to a person once they pass. So let’s explore this a little more deeply. 

Understanding the Need for Speed

  • Why do Jewish funerals happen so quickly? The benefits for the deceased
  • Why do Jewish funerals happen so quickly? The benefits for family and loved ones

Why do Jewish funerals happen so quickly? The benefits for the deceased

The reason that the funeral procedure occurs so soon after death is because, in the Jewish faith, it’s believed that the body is simply a vessel that’s inhabited by the spirit. The spirit is simply on loan from God during a person’s lifetime. Once death occurs, the spirit must return.

This is intrinsically tied to the belief that this process occurs once in the ground. As the body decomposes, the spirit gradually makes the journey back to God. This can only begin once the body is buried. Therefore, the faster this happens, the better.

Why do Jewish funerals happen so quickly? The benefits for family and loved ones

For family and friends, it’s naturally important that traditions are followed at this sensitive time. However, today’s lifestyles and challenges mean that Jewish end-of-life services are, albeit very slowly, undergoing change. This doesn’t mean that vital rituals aren’t followed.  Just that—especially in the Reform sect—some significant changes are becoming more normal.

The first of these is a delay between death and the funeral service. With loved ones often living far apart, it’s now common practice to wait a day or two before the service is performed. This allows sufficient travel time for those who need it. Of course, this doesn’t stop the pre-funeral traditions from taking place.

The second—and perhaps greatest—of these changes is cremation. Gone are the days when this wasn’t considered an option. There are various reasons for this, including:

  • Lack of available land for burials—especially relevant in urban areas.
  • Increased availability of Jewish cemeteries that’ll accept ashes to be buried. Many burial grounds are no longer owned by synagogues, and companies that own them are happier to accede to their customers’ wishes.
  • Natural evolution, as younger generations reach their later years and pass on.
  • The willingness of Rabbis (mainly Reformists) to preside over end-of-life services that culminate in cremation.
  • Increasing awareness of the ecological side of burying bodies over that of cremation.

Got a Question? Get Unbiased Jewish End-of-Life Info from the Jewish Cremation Society

The loss of a loved one is, quite naturally, a traumatic time. Planning for death can be even more so, especially in the case of terminal illness. End-of-life services have traditionally been burials. However, today there’s a move towards an alternative—namely, cremation.

The Jewish Cremation Society is a national information service that can answer any questions about the process. Plus, we’ll also put you in touch with trusted local sources who can help you understand how a cremation can still satisfy all elements of a Jewish end-of-life service.

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