Kosher Cookbooks
The Top 25 Sellers

updated daily

Jewish Biography
The Top 25 Sellers

updated daily


Q&A Archives

-  synagogue
-  home
-  non-jews
-  other topics

Ask a
New Question

New Questions


Survival Kit


Jewish Story

Jun 28, 1997 - 21:55 -

I have a question:
I am a member of a Chevra Kadisha and desire any and all information on the proper rituals associated with the tahara. Also the "whys" of such rituals would be helpful since I have learned all I know from the older women in the Chevra. Thanks.

About me: Debbie: Active Conservative, considering Orthodox, Jew
My e-mail address:  
How I found this site: Browsing the internet

Debbie, Yi Yasher Koacha for involving yourself in this very special mitzvah that is such pure chesed.

Chapters 194 through 200 (especially chapter 197) of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch provide a summary of the laws of tahara along with some of their reasons. The details are too numerous to review here, but it is readily available in a good two-volume English translation from Moznaim Publishing.

Beyond looking at the legal codes, I know of no way to easily find out what you want, short of doing what you are doing by becoming a member. Chevra Kadisha Societies are very secretive. It is likely that minutes of the meetings won't even be distributed to attending members. Although the basic tasks are fixed by Jewish Law, practical details of procedure are not available outside the society (and probably not in writing in any case).

This anonymity keeps the mitzvah pure chesed for members, and this secrecy maintains respect for the deceased. Although the basic tasks are the same (watching, washing, wrapping), each group follows slightly different procedures and does not want to create the possibility of its members criticizing other groups or being criticized themselves. (Imagine the hurt feelings of loved ones that could ensue.) So no one talks about the details of how to carry out the basic functions. (And your friends may not want to see in you the details of how you washed their mother's corpse, or how you may wash theirs tomorrow, G-d forbid.)

Each society has a Rabbi to guide it, and you will be taught the proper rituals by doing them with more experienced members. Questions can be addressed to your group's rabbi. Each year on the yahrzeit of Moses, some sort of observance takes place -- often a dinner with a dvar torah, organized by the group's rabbi to express appreciation. That's the only earthly reward for this anonymous mitzvah, performed for those who can't repay a debt.