Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Israeli Funeral

Recently, our upstairs neighbor's mother on the wife's side died. Instead of having a sad atmosphere at a funeral home with people being very quiet when they come visit at the house, a tent was set up in the parking area of the driveway with tables and chairs for the family and visitors. The atmosphere was filled with reminiscence with laughter and lively conversations going on. When I came to visit, the wife's brother greeted me and immediately filled a cup with a soft drink for me without my asking and said, "Come and sit down and eat something," you are free to feel invited without an invitation. Yes, there are the chairs that are low in height and cushions on the ground for the family so they can be seated and/or lying in mourning, but other than that it would appear that a party was going on. In many parts of Israel, many funerals are observed similar to our experience. For example, in an apartment building that has an entrance patio, tables and chairs would be set up so family, friends, and neighbors can come and drop in and visit with the family.

Kaddish (the mourners' prayer for the departed) is recited during Scharit, Minchah, and Ma'ariv, the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers. Kaddish can only be recited if a minyan (quorum of ten men) is present. So those who come to the minyan are not just family members: it is wide open.

The husband and wife's granddaughter with have her second birthday this week of mourning. She has been in and out of the house and involved with the family as they will celebrate life even with her grandmother's passing. As the little girl's mother said to me today, We must celebrate my grandmother's life.

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