Bury Me Like a Jew

For a variety of reasons I don’t do very many Jewish things in my life. For example, you may remember my post about delicious smoked bacon which is like kryptonite to Jews. However, one thing I really like about Jewish tradition is the funeral. This morning I was reading an article about funeral directors scaring their customers to stay away from “green burials” which were probably invented by the Jews.

I always thought that embalming, make-up, viewing, expensive accessories, pillows (WTF?), shiny caskets, concrete vaults are creepy and morbid. It’s hard to believe how much money this ends up costing the survivors. Even if the person decided to prepay his own funeral wouldn’t they get more enjoyment out of it if they used it for a cruise or a new car before they pass on. What’s the big deal about keeping the dead body around for a week so every last relative can show up to look at fresh out-of-the-freezer stiff with some theatrical make-up slathered on.

The Jews got it covered:

  • No waiting. You die in the morning – buried same day, unless it’s a Saturday. The rule is “as soon as possible”.
  • No embalming or otherwise decorating the dead body, just a warm water rinse. That’s mostly the reason for the rule number one. No embalming means some unpleasant smell.
  • No suit and tie or some other clown outfit, just a linen burial garment.
  • No open casket, you should remember the deceased as they lived.
  • No fancy coffin, just the cheapest pine box made entirely out of wood;apparently in Israel they just wrap the dead in a sheet.
  • No flowers; donations to a charity are appropriate.
  • Organ donations are allowed, but no cremation.

As with most things Jewish, there are many traditional rituals associated with death, funeral and mourning but they are designed to return the body to earth, remember the deceased while erasing the difference between rich and poor.

If this is your thing and you feel like you need to go in a cool shiny casket with adjustable mattres and pillow, at least do your relatives a favor and buy it at Costo. Not only will you save but it will be a nice chunk of money on your Costco American Express rebate and you will stiff (ha) the greedy funeral home bastards. As for me, I am going Jewish. I hope they don’t smell bacon on me.
If you don’t like to read, here is a Rabbi talking about Jewish funerals.

  • travel

    Many years ago when my Jewish uncle died, they tore their clothes and covered the pictures on their walls. I don’t remember why they did that – some mourning ritual I guess – but do Jews still do that?

  • I think it’s all a part of mourning rituals but I read that some people attach ribbons to their clothing and then rip them, no reason to tear up perfectly good outfit.

  • When I dies, I’m planning to have myself cremated, then have the ashes made into a diamond, ’cause I’m all about the bling.

  • Cara

    Honestly, this is one of the (many) reasons I’m pursuing conversion.

  • emaw, why make your kid(s) carry around your creepy diamond. “what’s that on your finger?” “meet my dad”
    Cara, are you ready to give up bacon for the rest of your life? I recommend doing Jewish things you like and skipping the ones that require sacrifices. 🙂

  • Cara

    Actually I hate all thinks pork, so the no-bacon thing is pretty easy 🙂 Shrimp? That’s another story.

  • Owen

    In the play (and also in the movie I believe) Angels in America, they talk about an old Jewish woman being buried and there being only flimsy pegs to hold down the coffin lid. When the Rabbi is asked why he says, “so she can escape easier.” I always wondered if that was the real reason.

  • The only thing good that came out of the funeral business (racket) was Six Feet Under on HBO.

    The notion of sitting shivah (along with a handful of other Judaic practices) has always appealed to me because it feels more.. honest. No pretense, you are forced to face what has happened, no frippery, no denial.

    Though I do think I’d still prefer to be cremated. Poof! Up in smoke.

  • Spyder

    No embalming for me but I do want to be cremated. If I go before the hubby he can put me on the mantle until he dies.

  • cremation is OK by me, but I’d like them to get rid of the ashes so my kid doesn’t have to carry me around in the box.

  • Joe

    I can’t agree with you more, Meesha. The entire industry preys on the human emotion at the most vunerable (sp) time. Organ harvesting (though I plan to live to a hundred so my organs are probably useless), a quick cremation and a party afterwards. And there you go.

  • Ah yes, this is the link I was looking for.