Jewish Journal

Tag: Taharah

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    2 weeks ago

    [Ed. Note: published a day ahead of schedule due to the Holiday of Yom Kippur.  --- JB]

    Certain rituals gain importance when we recognize that they bolster, perpetuate and connect us to core Jewish values. Whether the Red Sea parted or not, my family observes Passover where, each...

  • The Doorway of Tisha B’Av

    August 17, 2016 | 4:58 am

    [Ed. Note: Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av) has just passed for this year as this entry appears. We offer this entry, tying Tisha B'Av, the loss of parents, and the ability to expand compassion. --- JB]


    The death of our parents binds us to Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the Jewish month of...

  • My Pre-Taharah Experience

    August 10, 2016 | 4:29 am

    I wanted to write about my pre-taharah experience. It was this past Friday night after the first Gamliel institute class I participated in that talked specifically about purity and holiness.

    I am a hospice caregiver. In this line of work, it can be very challenging at times to...

  • Taharah and the Paradox of Purity of the Dead

    July 27, 2016 | 4:13 am

    In Torah touching a dead person is one of the sources of impurity (tumah).  Tumah is often described as an atmospheric coating or layer enveloping the impure person. It sounds almost like a metaphor for grief. Though it is invisible it was considered real. The corpse has given up...

  • “Tough” Taharah

    July 20, 2016 | 4:29 am

    I am what you would call a professional Taharah person. I am part of a team that performs most if not all of them for our community Chevrah Kadisha; I can’t recall the last time I was unable to participate in one. And I do receive compensation for my involvement, a modest stipend,...

  • As A Secular Jew, Why Should I Care About Jewish Death Rituals?

    April 13, 2016 | 4:44 am

    When I was growing up in Gunnison, Colorado in the 1950’s, we were secular Jews who traveled by car driving some four hours to Denver once each year, to attend High Holiday services at Temple Emanuel, a large Reform synagogue.  I was Bar Mitzvahed there – and I use the word as a...

  • THAT Taharah: Dying to Serve & Serving to Live

    March 16, 2016 | 4:00 am

    [Editor’s note: Most of the entries in this blog focus primarily on the deceased, or on the mourners, because that is the nature of the mitzvah. Here we are given a view of how the work of the Chevrah Kadisha impacts those who engage in this particular aspect of our human dance...

  • Teaching Taharah in Prison

    By Susan Esther Barnes

    February 10, 2016 | 12:30 am

    One day last week Rabbi Michael Lezak drove me up to the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, which, according to its website, provides “a centrally located medical/psychiatric institution for the health care needs of the male felon population in California's prisons.”


  • Everybody deserves a death ritual

    February 3, 2016 | 4:00 am

    Everybody deserves a death ritual, especially given the negativity placed upon death in the Western world. Memorial services and, for the most part, funerals, are for the living.  Taharot are for the ones whose bodies have recently died. Judaism declares that a taharah is a way for...

  • His Face

    January 6, 2016 | 3:12 am

    [Editor’s Note: 18 students of the Gamliel Institute, the leadership training arm of Kavod v’Nichum, having successfully completed all courses and requirements as part of the certification process by the Gamliel Institute, participated in, and recently returned from, the first ever...

  • Chevrah Kadisha: A Thankless Task?

    December 23, 2015 | 3:21 am

    Those of us who volunteer in a chevrah kadisha, a group which, among other things, both ritually and physically prepares dead people for burial, are often told that what we are doing is a “chesed shel emet,” or a true act of lovingkindness. In fact, “Chesed Shel Emet” is even the...

  • Sacred Undertaking

    December 16, 2015 | 4:10 am

    [Author’s Note: Some time back I led a Tahara and afterward had an interesting experience. (When we do this work, we hold a short meeting/briefing for the Tahara team before and after the Tahara itself, to make sure everyone on the team is emotionally and physically healthy.) In...

  • Abraham’s Children: How Muslim and Jewish Burial Practices Can Help Bring Peace

    October 21, 2015 | 3:35 am

    In the Biblical story of the death of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac come together to bury their father. Then Isaac goes to live in peace with Ishmael. Many millennia later …

    • thousands of Jews across the United States and Canada volunteer their time and energy to perform the...
  • Eight Hearts for the Chevrah – Letters After a Taharah

    October 14, 2015 | 3:35 am

    I “co-ordinate” the Women’s Chevrah Kadisha. (That means I schedule Taharot: send out e-notification of need, poll members as to availability, make certain the Taharah room is available during the time we can assemble a team of at least four. We do not have a designated “Rosh” -...

  • “You’re a Member of a What?!”

    September 30, 2015 | 3:29 am

    “Somebody’s got to do it,” we muse when we hear about someone pursuing a career or activity we cannot fathom doing ourselves. Funeral directors, hospice workers, chevrah kadisha members (Jewish burial societies) and others in contact with death get this sort of reaction on...

  • Taharah for a Child

    August 19, 2015 | 3:30 am

    My youngest grandson is four years old.  I have been a member of our Chevrah Kadisha for over 15 years (I am one of the “charter” members).  We live in a relatively small Jewish community and perform a Taharah only about three or four times a year.  When we do a Taharah, it is...

  • A Response to Ritual: Washing The Dead

    August 12, 2015 | 3:25 am

                I believe that as writers, if we are writing from a good place and we get extremely lucky, the stories we toss out into the world will come back to us in the form of more stories, a call and response of sorts.  

                My novel, Washing the Dead, brings forth the...

  • Brit v’Chesed

    July 29, 2015 | 4:00 am

         “Kindness is the overflowing of one’s self into the lives of others” (anonymous)

    Chesed: mercy, compassion, kindness, grace, steadfastness, faithfulness.

    Chesed encompasses all these components, and more. It denotes a love stemming from loyalty and commitment. In the Old...

  • Encountering familiar strangers

    July 15, 2015 | 4:00 am

    [Editor’s Note: 18 students of the Gamliel Institute, the leadership training arm of Kavod v’Nichum, having successfully completed all courses and requirements as part of the certification process by the Gamliel Institute, participated in, and recently returned from, the first ever...

  • What A Graduation!

    July 1, 2015 | 4:00 am

    [Editor’s Note: 18 students of the Gamliel Institute, the leadership training arm of Kavod v’Nichum, having successfully completed all courses and requirements as part of the certification process by the Gamliel Institute, participated in, and recently returned from, the first ever...

  • Expired and Inspired On the Road

    By Rabbi Joe Blair

    June 24, 2015 | 3:41 am

    Recently, for several weeks, I published this blog from ‘on the road’. The reason for the travel is related to the blog, and I thought it might be worthwhile to let readers know, because some of the upcoming entries in the weeks ahead will be as a result of that travel.

    If you...

  • The Recipe for Cheese Pie

    June 19, 2015 | 6:19 am

    Shavuot had me in the mood for a good cheese pie. Not a NY cheesecake, but an old fashioned cake my mom used to make with cake on top and bottom and a cottage cheese filling in between. I haven't made one for years, having long ago mastered the art of the cheese blintz.


  • What is a Ritual?

    June 10, 2015 | 2:34 pm

    What makes a Ritual (what is called a Cultural Pattern by the American Anthropologist Dr. Clifford Geertz) is the ability to tell a particular type of story - one that explains ourselves to ourselves, and gives power and resonance to a collective vision.

    It is thru ritual and...

  • Sometimes we bend the Rules

    May 20, 2015 | 3:26 am

    A couple of months ago we got called to do a Taharah on a pre-term twin. One twin lived, and is a beautiful baby girl. The other one died, and we prepared her with love. My partner knew the family, and they asked her to do the Taharah for them.

    I made a little blanket, and the...

  • Remembering Life by Jean Berman

    April 22, 2015 | 1:27 pm

    I have an affinity for the passage we use from the Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs while washing the body of the meit/deceased:


    How beautiful you are, my beloved friend:

    your eyes are doves from behind your

    tresses; your hair as a flock of goats that

    trail down from Mount...

  • Terrible Taharah

    April 15, 2015 | 3:13 am

    [Editor's Note: This was written some time ago, looking back. It reflects on a past experience and the author's response to it then.  The phrase 'comedy of errors' seems to float into conciousness as it unfolds. This entry is intended for amusement, with an aspect of satire. Enjoy....

  • Who is So Into Death?

    April 8, 2015 | 3:11 am

    Sometimes the question comes up: Who is behind Kavod v’Nichum? Who is it that spends their time working on matters around death and death rituals? Here is one answer about such a person.

    David Zinner of Columbia, Maryland has truly created something out of nothing. For the past...

  • A Hard Taharah

    March 25, 2015 | 3:49 am

    It has been exactly a year since our Chevrah Kadisha performed taharah for O, who was 10 months old.  When our team of 4 answered the call, I asked them to think of lullabies in Hebrew and/or English and niggunim (wordless melodies) which we would use during the taharah in place of...

  • The Chevrah Kadisha Conference

    March 4, 2015 | 3:40 am

    Once a year, we attend a gathering of individuals from a range of Jewish backgrounds, with varying perspectives and practices, who come together in a spirit of kindness and compassion, intellectually curious, eager to learn from one another, and open to supporting and being...

  • Dreaming of Taharah

    February 11, 2015 | 3:20 am

    I am involved in a wanna-be group. We’ve desired to form a Chevrah Kadisha and begin providing taharah rituals in our area for several years. We have come up against many obstacles, interestingly, mostly from within (ability to organize, commit time, etc.). 

    I had this experience...

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