Mourner’s Kaddish: Traditions and Alternatives

PrayerbookJewish mourning practices are designed as a series of steps that allow us to set time aside for grieving and then gradually move forward in a natural progression – shiva for seven days, sheloshim for the first 30 days, then the full year for a child mourning a parent, not to mention the yahrzeit and yizkor services – but why do we do this, and what do people do if they can’t make it to a minyan every day, or if they don’t find meaning or support in the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish?

 

To begin with, Shiva.com has a brief explainer of the various periods of mourning. As with all religious practices, we strongly encourage you to have an open conversation with your rabbi about your needs and the options, within your level of observance. Judaism is unusual in that it has a defined set of mourning practices in order to help the bereaved transition back into “normal” life, without feeling they have to jump back in after a few days. Many people find this series of steps gives them the freedom to fully grieve, without having to put on a false front to the rest of the world.

While most rabbis would encourage you to go to shul on a regular basis to be in community as you remember your loved one, perhaps you can find a way to incorporate your own spiritual practices into that process. Rabbi Dana Saroken, of Beth El Congregation, believes in the healing power power of reciting kaddish as a part of a community. She shared, “I always encourage people, even if the words don’t feel fluid or natural or they aren’t regular ‘shul-go-ers,’ to try attending a minyan on a regular basis. The Jewish tradition is that we recite kaddish for immediate family for a month for a child, sibling, or spouse and for 11 months (minus a day) for a parent. I have found that when people make time in their lives to channel their grief, especially among a community of people who understand what it feels like to experience love and loss – they have structure in their journey through grief and also tend to emerge from that time feeling more ‘ready’ to re-enter the world of the living when their period of mourning comes to an end. Whether it’s daily or weekly – creating a fixed time for connecting to G-d, to others, and to the presence and memory of our loved ones – is a precious opportunity and it matters.” Rabbi Saroken also shared that, “People can use the mourner’s kaddish to focus on the words that praise G-d (even in moments of loss) or they can spend their time bringing to mind a memory/memories of their loved one. Sometimes, I just think of the rhythmic recitation of the prayer as a heartbeat or an umbilical cord that continues to connect us to the person that we love.”

It is also helpful to understand exactly why these Jewish practices have come to be, before making a decision about your own practice. This article in the Forward makes some important points about What Judaism Teaches Us About Grief and Loss. And this post from the ritualwell website encourages people through the process of saying Kaddish, from the perspective of someone who initially struggled to even pronounce all the words.  

 

If saying Kaddish is not for you, it may be helpful to find other ways to incorporate the set periods of mourning into your routine, even if you choose not to attend synagogue to say Kaddish. If your family is only having shiva for a few days, you may still want to find some way to mark the full shiva period whether by spending your evenings at home with family sharing memories of the person, by making some of their favorite recipes, or by doing something like not listening to music or not watching tv for those seven days. If you are not attending a minyan but you’re looking for something a little more formal, Judaism encourages study of a text such as Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of Our Fathers), for the appropriate length of the mourning period, taking time to consciously think about your loved one before you begin.

If these more traditional approaches still do not meet your needs and you are looking for a way to honor the traits of someone you loved by creating a spiritual practice, the ritualwell website has a helpful post on this topic. Ritualwell also has an entire section dedicated to Mourning and Bereavement, where you can find poems, stories, ritual guidance and more. One suggestion would be to dedicate yourself to 30 days or a year (for a parent) of silent meditation each morning, dedicated to thoughts and memories of your loved one. Also, many people choose to begin a volunteer project for a cause their loved one supported, start an awareness project in their memory, or get involved in an organization that meant something to their loved one.

 

Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that it reflects your needs and supports you as you move through this journey.

Who Typically Serves as a Pallbearer?

In Jewish tradition, immediate mourners (spouse, children, siblings) typically do not serve as pallbearers, but in-laws, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, close family friends, et cetera, may serve. Your level of observance will determine whether men and women, or just men, can serve as pallbearers. Please ask your rabbi if you have questions.
For services in our chapel, we will call pallbearers by name and give them instructions at the end of the service (at graveside services they are not called by name, they meet at the hearse to receive instructions).
Active pallbearers (5-10 people) physically lift and carry the casket at the funeral home and again at the cemetery, and must be able to lift. For services in our chapel you may also have honorary pallbearers. If you have more than 10 people to be pallbearers, or people unable to physically lift, you may make them honorary pallbearers and they will stand in the aisle of the chapel at the end of the service in the funeral home. Fraternal groups or charitable guilds should be acknowledged as honorary pallbearers.

Medicare Supplement: Ask the Expert Luncheon in Ellicott City

Tim Barnaba photo

Tuesday, January 15
12pm
Eggspectation, Ellicott City

Join us to learn about Medicare Supplement from Tim Barnaba, adjunct professor and teacher of “Understanding Medicare and Social Security” at CCBC, and Founder and President of Barnaba Insurance & Financial Services.

Eliza Feller, Levinson’s Director of Advance Planning, will briefly discuss the benefits of the Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide.

A vegetarian/fish meal will be served. No fee to attend. Attendance by reservation only. Space is limited.

Registration is required by January 7 to AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com or 410-653-8900.

Caregiver Challenges & Resources Luncheon

Join us for this informative presentation by Jewish Community Services, to cover the challenges facing those who care for aging family members and learn about helpful resources to ease this burden.

Eliza Feller, Levinson’s Director of Advance Planning, will briefly discuss the benefits of the Levinson’s Pre-Planning Guide.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
12pm
Tark’s Grill, 2360 W Joppa Rd #116, Lutherville-Timonium

A vegetarian/fish meal will be served. No fee to attend. Attendance by reservation only. Space is limited.

RSVP by November 23 to Levinson’s via:
410-653-8900 or AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com

Life Happens: Jewish Perspectives on Aging and Planning for the Future

Life HappensThe Gordon Center for the Performing Arts
3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills, MD, 21117
Tuesday, Oct. 30
6:30-8:30 p.m.

SPEAKERS:

Rabbi Dana Saroken, Beth El Congregation
Deborah Hamburger, Esq., Volunteer Coordinator, Jewish Community Services

THE DISCUSSION WILL COVER:
Jewish perspectives on aging and end of life.
Planning for financial, medical and end-of-life matters with loved ones.

Learn how to create a comprehensive binder for your family members that will provide them with all the useful information they will need in the event of your death or other emergency.

Attendance is free and open to the community. To register for this session, visit lifebridgehealth.org/lifehappens or call 410-601-WELL.

This event is co-sponsored by Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Community Center of Baltimore, Lifebridge Health, Edward A. Myerberg Center, and North Oaks.

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s: Early Detection Matters

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s: Early Detection Matters

StockSnap_28QNKCAHLMAsk the Expert Luncheon

Tuesday, October 16, 12pm

Linwoods, 25 Crossroads Dr, Owings Mills

Join us for this informative presentation by the Alzheimer’s Association. We will also briefly review the benefits of Levinson’s Advance Planning Guide. A vegetarian/fish meal will be served.

 

This program is designed to:

  • Provide compelling information about Alzheimer’s disease
  • Provide testimonies from families living with the disease
  • Encourage early detection, early diagnosis and early intervention
  • Provide information on knowing the difference between age-related memory loss and dementia
  • Provide answers on what to do when you or someone you know exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease

 

Lunch is free but registration is required by October 9 to AskTheExpert@sollevinson.com or 410-653-8900

Understanding Addiction and Recovery – Free 2-Part Series

stonesinwaterPart 1: The Disease of Addiction

Weinberg Park Heights JCC
5700 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD, 21215
Tuesday, October 9

7:00 – 9:00pm

What causes addiction? Why is the battle so much tougher for some than for others?

 

Keynote: Understanding the Disease of Addiction
Richard Haber, MD, Medical Director
Jewish Community Services Outpatient Mental Health Center
Breakout Sessions:

  • Increasing Resiliency in Our Children
    Larry Ziffer, MSW, Charles Crane Family Foundation and Susan Kurlander, MEd, Jewish Community Services
  • The Unique Challenges of the Orthodox Family
    Aviva Weisbord, PhD, Shemesh and Howard Reznick, LCSW-C, Jewish Community Services
  • How Can We Help the Addict We Love?
    James Ryan, MA
    Ashley Addiction Treatment

Narcan overdose response training to follow presentation.

Free and open to the community. Attend one or both programs (part 2 on October 23). Registration preferred at jcsbalt.org/AddictionPrograms or to 410-466-9200.

Co-sponsors: Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services – Baltimore, Baltimore Board of Rabbis, Edward A. Myerberg Center, Jmore.

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Part 2: Addiction Treatment Options

Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC
3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills, MD, 21117
Tuesday, October 23

7:00 – 9:00pm

 

Keynote: “The Range of Treatment Options and Who Does Best Where”
Marc Fishman, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Panel: Individuals discuss their paths to recovery.

Narcan overdose response training to follow presentation.

Free and open to the community. Attend one or both programs (part 2 on October 23). Registration preferred at jcsbalt.org/AddictionPrograms or to 410-466-9200.

Co-sponsors: Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., Jewish Community Services – Baltimore, Baltimore Board of Rabbis, Edward A. Myerberg Center, Jmore.

Why do We Place Earth in the Grave?

Have you ever wondered why it is Jewish tradition to fill in the graves of our loved ones? To some it may seem like a painful process and, truthfully, it is. But our Jewish faith teaches us to care for one another, and that doesn’t stop after death. In fact, the guiding Jewish principal after someone dies is “Kavod HaMet” or honoring the dead. According to chabad.org, “Burial is the last physical act of kindness that we do for our departed loved ones. We have cared for them in their lifetimes, and now we care for them in their passing by ensuring they have a proper Jewish burial.”  Many rabbis even say that it is the highest mitzvah that you can do, as it is truly selfless, since you know that the deceased will never be able to repay you for this act of kindness.

The more traditional Jewish burials involve filling the grave entirely with large shovels, while Reform or Conservative burials may involve ceremonial earth with small hand shovels. Some families have a tradition somewhere in between that requires ensuring the top of the casket is covered before departing the cemetery. You may have noticed some people using the back of the shovel for at least one of the scoops. Using the back of the shovel shows our reluctance in burying our loved one, that we are differentiating the act from a standard use of a shovel, and that it is not an easy task. Finally, as we place the earth into the grave, we might hear the rabbi recite the words Al mekomo yavo veshalom (for a man) or Al mekomah tavo veshalom (for a woman). This translates to may ________ go to his/her place in peace.

It is so important to care for each other in death as we care for each other in life. The tradition of burying our own is one of healing, and the beginning of a long process of mourning our loved ones. It symbolizes closure, allowing us to move forward into the shiva period and navigate a new world without the deceased. Knowing that we did everything we could to help our loved one transition on to what is next hopefully brings at least a small feeling of comfort.  

Why Advance Planning?

Advance Planning is the number one thing you can do to make the funeral process easier for your family.

Why Advance Planning?

Advance planning allows your family to spend the time after someone’s death focusing on grief and healing, instead of funeral particulars.

What is Advance Planning?

Advance Planning is deciding ahead of time what your wishes are for your funeral or that of a loved one. We are here to make this conversation as easy as possible. There is no obligation to pay anything, and no fee for the appointment.

How does it work?
Simply schedule a time to meet with or speak by phone with one of the funeral directors who specializes in advance planning. When you meet with us face-to-face, we will provide you with a detailed and personalized Pre-Planning Guide that includes all the information regarding your funeral selections, as well as helpful resources to help you get organized and to make the time surrounding the funeral much easier for your family. If you make arrangements with us by phone, we can email you a copy of your Pre-Planning Guide.

Pre-paying comes with the obvious benefit of your family not having to come up with funds or worry about finances while grieving, and we would be happy to discuss our various payment options to pre-pay some or all of the funeral. However, we feel it is most important that you start the process and put your wishes on paper.

To learn more or start filling out a Begin Planning Form, please visit our website. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us or call 410-653-8900.

Family Caregiver Resources

StockSnap_28QNKCAHLMAccording to the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly 72% of families are providing care for adults who are 50 or older. That number will continue to grow as our baby boomer generation ages. Being a caregiver can be a daunting undertaking, but here is an article from Hadassah about the importance of caregivers taking care of themselves. There has even been publicity recently about Millenials becoming caregivers.

Here are some links to some resources that we hope you will find helpful: