Celebration & Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism

By Rela M. Geffen | Go to book overview
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JUDITH HAUPTMAN


Death and Mourning
A Time for Weeping, A Time for Healing

One of the ritual areas about which American Jews are least knowledgeable is death and mourning. Many-- perhaps most--Jews celebrate birth, coming of age, and marriage in the context of Jewish tradition. But death is more often observed the American way than the Jewish way. Not only does this abandoning of Jewish practice diminish the dignity and meaning of the rites of closure, it also denies the mourners rich opportunities for consolation.

With hospice care for the terminally ill becoming more common, many people will find themselves present at the moment of death. Overwhelmed by the loss and sorely in need of expressing both grief and love, persons not schooled in Jewish patterns of behavior will not know what to do when death occurs. But those who are familiar with Jewish attitudes toward death and with

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I would like to dedicate this chapter to Professor Baruch Bokser, my colleague on the Talmud faculty at the Jewish Theological Seminary, whose death in the prime of life occurred as I was working on this project. My thanks to Rabbi David C. Kogen, Professor Richard Kalmin, and my friends Terri and Jack Lebewohl for their many insightful comments and suggestions.

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