Why Do Pallbearers Sometimes Stop on the Way to the Grave?

shutterstock_1223972107As Jews, we believe it is our duty to accompany the deceased to the cemetery for burial, as the Hebrew word for funeral is “levaya,” which literally means “escorting.” Burying the dead is one of the biggest mitzvahs that we can complete, because we know that there is no way for that person to ever repay us for this act. But have you ever wondered why we sometimes make several brief stops while carrying the casket from the hearse to the grave?

We’ve reached out to a couple of local Rabbis to ask what their take on this tradition is. Rabbi Chai Posner, of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, believes that –  much like using the back of the shovel to place earth in the grave – it shows reluctance. Rabbi Posner is quoted saying, “It shows that we are hesitant. It is a balance between a mitzvah and hesitation that we don’t want to be burying them. It makes what we are doing very intentional – just like using the back of the shovel.” We also reached out to Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, who had a another approach to this sacred act. Rabbi Grossman says, “We stop seven times, one for each day of the week, to represent creation. We honor the deceased by stopping seven times because each individual represents the full potential of creation.”

Both of these explanations provide a deep insight to the Jewish views of death and burial, meant to give mourners some comfort during a very difficult time. Of course, like anything else in Judaism, we have heard several other explanations throughout the years, and we always recommend that you reach out to your own rabbi to see what their beliefs are.

What to Do and Say at a Shiva House

shutterstock_137233502When someone we know loses a loved one it is our instinct to comfort them, whether that is with words, food, or a hug. Often times, we find ourselves at a loss for what to say, or accidentally saying the wrong thing, even though our intentions are well-meaning. There are several do’s and don’ts when it comes to comforting mourners and, specifically, attending a shiva house. Read on for more information on what is appropriate and helpful during someone’s mourning period.

Beginning with the universal comfort, food is always welcome at a shiva house. The last thing anyone who is grieving should have to concern themselves with is cooking (for themselves or their guests). You should be sure to find out in advance if it is a Kosher home so as not to send anything that can’t be eaten. Any food should also be easy to serve and not have to be prepared (things like deli trays, bagels, and dessert trays are always good options). You might also consider sending them a credit or gift card to a restaurant or deli that they can use at a later date, since they may be inundated with food trays in the early days.

If you are looking for things to do to help, any cleaning up or regular household chores will always go a long way in making things easier for the family. Doing dishes or cleaning the kitchen is the most obvious. Taking the trash and recycling out is another chore that sometimes gets ignored until the end of the evening once it is overflowing. Depending on how close you are with the family, you could even consider something like cutting the grass if it needs it in the morning before anyone arrives. Of course you don’t want want to overstep but, based on your relationship, you can determine how involved you should get. If you are tasked with helping to set up or organize the shiva house, check out our page with tips to setting up a shiva house. Try to anticipate their needs instead of asking “What can I do to help”, because they probably do not know what they need.

Try to avoid saying things like, “I know how you feel,” “When my mother died…,” or “At least they didn’t suffer.” The truth is you really do not know how they feel, or if they suffered, even if you also lost your mother recently to the same illness. Mourning is an extremely personal experience and no one knows what someone else goes through when they lose someone. Instead, tell them how sorry you are for their loss, be there to listen or sit quietly with them. If you are struggling with what to say, it is important to share memories of the deceased, or times the mourner told you a story about that person. You should also avoid cliches like, “He is in a better place,” “She lived a long life,” or “Time heals all wounds.” In the mind of a mourner, there is no better place for their loved one to be than with them and, even if their mother was 98, no life is long enough. There is also no time limit on someone’s grief. According to Carla Sofka, Professor of Social Work at Siena College, “We grieve, five or ten minutes a time, for the rest of our lives.” (womensrabbinicnetwork.wordpress.com).

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a mourner is just quietly and be there with them. Let them do the talking if they feel like it. Hug them, tell them how sorry you are, and continue to be there when shiva is over. It is important to remember that once everyone else has gone back to their normal lives, they are left to navigate a new life without their loved one. Remember to extend an arm and offer comfort once life has moved on for everyone else.  

Twilight in the Woods – Memorial Event 2018

Twilight in the Woods

The Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods
10431 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD, 21044
Sunday, November 4

5pm (registration begins at 4:30pm; the event will be held rain or shine.)

Join us as we light up the night in honor of those we have loved and lost, including those fallen heroes who have proudly served our country and community. This outdoor event will provide a time for reflection and remembrance, and will embrace attendees in a warm, meaningful glow.

There is no fee to attend this event. If you would like to purchase a luminary to honor your loved one(s), there is a cost of $10 per luminary.

To register for the event, please contact Gilchrist at 443-849-8251. Please register by Monday, October 29, 2018.

Sponsored by Gilchrist, Sol Levinson & Bros., and Inner Arbor Trust, Inc.

Rosh Hashana Recipe from Our Family to Yours

With the New Year less than a week away, we are gearing up for Rosh Hashana by sharing some of our favorite recipes and traditions. We know that our team here couldn’t do what we do without the help and support of our families, and traditions are important to us. Here is a recipe from funeral director, Justan Goldstein’s wife, Jeanie Goldstein for her famous “Cranberry Brisket”. We hope you enjoy it! L’shanah Tovah!

Cranberry Brisket; or you can call it Brisket Done Right!

3 to 4 pounds beef brisket
1 package onion soup mix
1 can whole cranberry saucecooking
1 can tomato sauce
2 cups water
Pepper to season
Garlic to taste

Trim excess fat from brisket. Place brisket in large pan (preferably a large roasting pan without a flat rack). Add in all ingredients, and seal tight with aluminum foil. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes per pound. Meat should be fork tender.

Why Do We Cut Kriah?

Kriah is the tradition of rending garments to represent the tear in your heart when losing a loved one. It is a way to show outwardly that you are in mourning. Originally, people tore their clothing to represent their loss, but today we sometimes  use a black ribbon that is worn on the outside of your clothing. Kriah ribbons are traditionally worn by immediate mourners – a spouse, child, sibling or parent of the person who has passed. Children who are mourning a parent wear the ribbon on their left side, symbolizing that they are the direct lineage of the person who passed. All others wear the ribbon on the right side. The ribbon is traditionally worn for the seven day shiva period but some Rabbis suggest wearing it for 30 days.  Below is a poem written by Harold M. Schulweis about the tradition of kriah.

Krieh – Tearing the Cloth

Why rend the clothes?
So strange to a tradition
that admonishes
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.

Jewish Mourning Rituals

Over the last several weeks, we have posted this series of videos regarding Jewish mourning rituals to our Facebook page. If you haven’t done so already, take a look! They are very informative and original. If you have questions regarding Jewish funerals or mourning practices, please contact us, we are always here to help!

 

Baltimore Sun Top Workplaces – 2015

The list is out, and once again we are proud to announce that Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. has been recognized among the 100 companies/organizations selected as a Top Workplace by The Baltimore Sun.

Banner 2015

Coming in at #8 on the list of Small-sized Workplaces, we are aware that our recognition is due to our employees filling out surveys and again ranking us as one of the best places to work in Baltimore. Levinson’s is honored to be included on this list for a second year, and especially grateful that our employees know they are an important and respected part of our family business.

Click the image above to see the full listing of workplaces that were recognized.

Why Should I Plan Ahead?

Maybe you have a relative who is ill or going to need some long-term care and you have to spend down their assets, or your parents are older and you don’t want to have to worry about the impact of funeral costs while you are grieving, or you don’t want your family to have to worry about making decisions and handling the financial burden of your own funeral service.

There are several important reasons to take an hour of your time to make funeral arrangements in advance:

  • Ensure your peace of mind that your wishes will be followed.

  • Relieve the burden on your family, so they don’t have to worry about making significant emotional and financial decisions while they are grieving.

  • Control financial costs – when you pre-fund a funeral service, we guarantee our charges at today’s costs. (We always recommend speaking with a financial consultant or other professional regarding your personal financial situation.)

  • Reduce assets prior to applying for Medicaid.

Check out the Plan Ahead section of our website for an informative video, FAQs, and an online form to begin planning. Contact us to speak with a funeral director about any additional questions or to set up an appointment.