Jewish funeral rituals were crafted to honor each person with the dignity deserving of God’s creation. The entire funeral process is focused on respecting the deceased with kindness that can never be repaid. Mourners can find comfort in following the ancient traditions. The community role is to support the mourner with a comforting and reassuring presence.
The traditional words for consoling the mourner (nichum aveilim) is:
המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים
“May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
“Earth you are, and to earth you will return.”
“And the earth returns to the land as it was, and the spirit returns to G‑d, who gave it.”
God gives opportunities for us to love but not forever.
God takes opportunities away after a while.
So don’t hesitate or delay or curse the darkness while remaining mired in sadness and hopelessness,
because God gives; and God takes away.
Blessed be the name of God.
But why bless God when God takes away?
Because if the opportunities were always there, we would wait until the time was just right and never make the leap, and more of life would slip away.
So God gives and God takes; Blessed be God’s name.
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there.
I did not die.
Mary Elizabeth Frye
Why rend the clothes?
So strange to a tradition
not to break or to destroy
It is for the sake of anger
against the unfairness of the world
anger against him or her, God or self?
Is tearing the cloth to give outer expression
to the tattered soul within?
Or is it a parallelism
the death of a person like the burning of a Sefer Torah
for which tearing the clothes is performed?
The burial of a human like the burial of a Torah
A human being is like a Sefer Torah
Studied, it has wisdom to impart
Lived, it has goodness to convey.
Rend the garments for the “Torah-mensch”
Each of us a letter in the Torah scroll
Together our lives are intertwined
Our common fate and faith
our common destiny
find us like the stitches of the parchment
when any of us is lost
The holy text is torn.
In memory we are mended.
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
God makes me to lie down in green pastures;
God leads me beside the still waters.
God restores my soul;
God guides me in straight paths for God’s name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Adonoy ro-i, lo echsar. Bin-ot desheh yarbitzayni,
al may m’nuchot y’nahalayni. Nafshi y’shovayv,
yanchayni v’ma-g’lay tzedek l’ma-an sh’mo.
Gam ki aylaych b’gay tzalmaves lo ira ra
ki atah imadi, shivt’cha umish-antecha, haymah y’nachamuni.
Ta-aroch l’fanai shulchan, neged tzor’roy,
dishantah vashemen roshi, kosi r’vayah.
Ach tov vachesed yird’funi kol y’may chayoy,
v’shavti b’vayt Adonoy l’orecha yamim.
.מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: יְהוָה רֹעִי, לֹא אֶחְסָר
.בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא, יַרְבִּיצֵנִי; עַל-מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי
.נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב; יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי-צֶדֶק, לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ
;גַּם כִּי-אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת, לֹא-אִירָא רָע– כִּי-אַתָּה עִמָּדִי
.שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ, הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי
;תַּעֲרֹךְ לְפָנַי, שֻׁלְחָן– נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי
.דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי, כּוֹסִי רְוָיָה
;אַךְ, טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי– כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי
.וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה, לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים