Caring for the Dead--by Singing to Them

Tablet Magazine, 6/28/13

I serve many roles in my community’s chevra kadisha, or sacred burial fellowship—from community organizer to silent witness. There are set tasks of washing, purification, dressing, and laying out the dead. Protection of the body against dishonor is the primary Jewish imperative, which is why sh’mirah (vigil-keeping around the clock) remains so vital to the process.

I am a rabbi, but my commitment to the burial fellowship is part of an ancient lay commitment that predates rabbinic leadership. And for me, the unique heart of this sacred undertaking is singing to those who have died. 

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