Common Terms

  • Aron - Tradition calls for the casket to be simple; to be made of wood with no nails or other metal parts; and to have several holes in the bottom to allow the body's natural return to dust.
  • Cantor - A religious singer, or Chazan, who assists the clergy

  • Chesed shel Emet - Acts of True Kindness

  • Chevrah Kadisha - Hebrew meaning “Holy Society”

  • El Malei Rachamin - A memorial prayer (Northern European tradition)

  • Hashcabah - A memorial prayer (Iberian tradition)

  • Hesped - A eulogy or true evaluation of the deceased’s life that is part of the funeral service

  • Kaddish - A prayer recited for the deceased by the direct mourners for the first time at the conclusion of the interment service

  • Kavod-Ha-Met - Honoring the Dead

  • K'reeah - The rending of the mourners' outer garments, a symbol of their anguish and grief. 

  • Kever - The grave

  • Kittel - A hand-sewn white linen shroud in which the deceased members of the Jewish faith are dressed

  • Kvurah B’kara - Burial in the ground. Biblical mandate requires burial in the ground, filling the grave completely until a mound is formed. Participation in filling the grave is a religious privilege and duty and an expression of honor for the deceased. 

  • Levaya - The funeral procession (Northern European tradition)

  • Met – Deceased

  • Mitzvah - Commandment

  • Rabbi - A teacher or ordained leader in the Jewish faith

  • Rechitzah – The ceremony of washing the deceased before burial

  • Shabbat - The Jewish Sabbath; begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday

  • Sheloshim - The thirty days following burial (including shiva)

  • Shiva - The traditional seven-day mourning period immediately following burial, observed by the bereaved

  • Shemira - As a sign of respect, the body is guarded or watched from the moment of death until after burial. A family member, a Chevra Kadisha member, or a Shomer arranged by the funeral chapel recites psalms (Tehillim) while watching over the deceased.

  • Shomer - A watcher; one who sits with the body until burial. The shomer traditionally recites psalms.

  • Tachrichim - The burial shroud. A full set of traditional white clothing, preferably made of linen. Includes hat, shirt, pants, jacket, belt and wrapping sheet. This garment symbolizes equality and purity.

  • Taharah - The body of the deceased is washed thoroughly by members of a sacred burial society (Chevra Kadisha), which will prepare the body for burial. Men prepare men and women prepare women. They wash the body with warm water from head to foot and, although they may turn the body as necessary to clean it entirely, including all orifices, they never place it face down. Prayers and psalms are recited during the washing.

  • Tallith - A prayer shawl worn by men during the morning prayer service

  • Tehillim - The book of Psalms

  • Yahrzeit – The anniversary of the death

  • Yarmulke/Kippah - The skull cap worn by the men 

  • Yizkor - A memorial prayer