A Word About Religious Customs And Rituals: Shomer, Tahara, and Shiva

VISITING THE GRAVE DURING THE HEBREW MONTH OF ELUL: Prayers and Meditations When Visiting The Grave
Ross’ Shalom Chapels is proud to be able to provide our community with our new publication: Prayers and Meditations When Visiting The Grave, in addition to our Jewish Appointment Wall and Desk calendars for 5773. It is customary during the Hebrew month of Elul, which begins this year on Saturday, August 18, 2012 and continues until Rosh HaShana, to visit the graves of our loved ones and to say prayers in their memory.  We have included; the 23rd Psalm, Mourner’s Kaddish, the Yizkor prayers, the El Moleh Rachamim and several meditations.  You can stop by our funeral homes in Springfield or Chatham to pick-up a copy before visiting the cemetery along with one of our calendars for the new year or send us an email by clicking the calendar tab at the top of this page and sending us a message requesting one and we will gladly mail it to you.

The word Shomer literally means a watcher, one who watches. It is the term used for a guardian. When you retain the services of a Shomer from a Chevra Kaddisha you are asking an observant Jew to watch over your loved one while his or her remains are awaiting burial. The Shomer is supposed to read Tehilim, Psalms, to comfort the soul of the deceased who is said to be watching and waiting for burial before entering Olam HaBa, the world to come. This person is not an employee of Ross’ Shalom Chapels but is provided by the local Chevra Kaddisha, usually for a fee. Some synagogues have started their own Chevra Kaddisha to provide this service to their members. If you are a member of such a congregation you may obtain this service from them or Ross’ Shalom Chapels can arrange for a Shomer from a local Chevra Kaddisha.

TAHARA: This is the word for the ritual of washing the decedent. The Chevra Kaddisha, who are not employees of Ross’ Shalom Chapels, will come to the funeral home and, while saying certain prayers, wash your loved one. Only men can wash men while only women can wash women. At all times modesty and respect for the deceased is of prime importance to all involved.

SHIVA: You may have heard of many traditions concerning the Shiva period. Here are a few of the rules and customs:

Preparing The Home: Shiva means seven. And that is because traditionally, we observe an initial mourning period of 7 days. But, its really less, since, according to Jewish math, you count the Shabbat but you don’t mourn during Shabbat. You also need to prepare for Shabbat so even most traditional Jews will sit only till around 11:00 a.m. on Friday and use the rest of the day to get ready for the Sabbath. Also, at the conclusion of Shabbat there is usually little time to sit and since you were expected to be at synagogue for the afternoon and evening services there are no minyanim (services) in the home on Saturday evening. A traditional home which is going to observe the shiva will also cover the mirrors. Some maintain that all mirrors are covered while others believe that only the mirror at which you attend to your daily grooming needs be covered (the mirror in your bathroom).

When departing for the funeral it may be expected that you will leave a pitcher of water outside the house for people to wash their hands with. This is to wash off the dust of the cemetery before entering a shiva house. (Remember to also put out paper towels and a suitable garbage receptacle. Following the funeral and interment the family usually returns to the home at which shiva is being observed and lights the shiva (7 day candle), provided by the funeral home. (Tradition tells us that you are not to place the candle in any room in which you perform a mitzvah such as the kitchen or dinning room where you take your meals. The living room is generally where the candle is placed. HOWEVER, this can pose a risk of fire. If you put the candle in a place where it can be knocked over or set your drapes or other items on fire it would not be a good idea. Please take great care where you place the candle.)

You should also be prepared to serve a dairy meal upon returning from the cemetery. For more information in this regard please look on the catering information on this website or ask to speak to our catering manager.