Life Cycles - Death
II - Death & Burial
As a sign of respect for the deceased, Jewish burial practice encourages the body's return to its natural state..."for from dust were you taken...and to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:19).
The deceased must be buried in a casket made entirely of wood. Although a plain pine box is recommended by Jewish Tradition, the funeral homes offer a variety of acceptable caskets.
A member or veteran of any branch of the U.S. Armed Services may have a United States flag draped over the casket. This flag is arranged for by the funeral home.
No airtight vaults may be used. Standard concrete grave liners are used in Beth Torah's cemetery, as per Hillcrest Memorial Park's guidelines.
The funeral should take place as soon as possible, and preferably within 24 hours, after the death. Burial in Beth Torah's cemetery does not take place on the Sabbath, Jewish or American legal holidays. The burial shall be conducted in accordance with Conservative Halacha* (Law) as interpreted by Congregation Beth Torah through its Rabbi.
Preparation of the Body
All clothing and jewelry will be removed from the body prior to ritual preparation, and it will be held in safekeeping for the family of the deceased. The Beth Torah Chevra Kaddisha* will prepare the body for burial. The deceased will be washed in a manner prescribed by Jewish tradition (referred to as Tahara*) and dressed in the Tach- richim*, the linen shroud. Men, (and women, if requested), are then wrapped in a tallit and a kipah is placed on the head.
As another sign of respect, a person will sit with the deceased until the funeral begins. This person is known as the Shomer*. The Cemetery Committee, in conjunction with the funeral home, will make arrangements for the Shomer.
Jewish Law prohibits public display of the deceased. Open casket funerals are not permitted.
The immediate family is permitted a private viewing if requested.
Routine autopsies are not permitted because they violate the principal of Kevod Hamet*. An autopsy is permitted when medical professionals deem that it will help others who suffer from the same condition(s) as the deceased. It is also permissible when the law requires it in order to determine cause of death. The Dallas County Medical Examiner and Collin County Justice of the Peace are sensitive to families and cooperate with their desires when they are able to do so. In general, you should consult the Rabbi before allowing an autopsy to take place.
Because of the emphasis which Jewish tradition places on Pikuach Nefesh* (saving a life) and the general desire to bring healing to the living, organ donations are permissible.