Jewish Mourning Rituals
Ritual practices surrounding death and bereavement are strictly observed by many modern Jews, even those who have abandoned traditional behaviors in other aspects of their lives. Prior to death, the custom is for the dying person to recite a brief confessional prayer called the vidui in order that he or she leaves this world with no guilt or sin. There are, however, no theological consequences if this prayer is not offered.
Prior to Burial
Immediately following death, utmost care is taken to preserve the dignity of the corpse. It is covered with a sheet and never left unattended from the moment of death until the moment of burial. Those who accompany the body during this period are expected to recite Psalms and refrain from casual conversation. Jewish tradition considers the body as belonging to God and only “on loan” to human beings while alive. Consequently, following death when the body returns to divine care, it must remain as intact as possible. For this reason, autopsies and...