Should I Bring Flowers To A Jewish Funeral?
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- Written by Holly Hughes on April 26, 2022
The passing of a loved one is always a difficult time. Wishing to show our grief, sympathy, and heartfelt condolences to those most affected by loss is a common desire. However, knowing the best way to do this for different faiths is very important – particularly when it comes to Judaism.
While many of us assume flowers are the best gift to share our condolences at a funeral, this isn’t always the case.
Read on to find out if you can send flowers to a Jewish funeral and the different traditions to be aware of during this time of grief, mourning, and loss for Jewish communities.
What are the best Jewish funeral flowers?
Flowers are a common condolence gift we send to those in mourning to express our sympathy, love, and support. However, while they are popular in the Christian faith as a funeral gift, flowers don’t hold the same meaning in Jewish funerals. In fact, when it comes to sympathy gifts for Jewish families, flowers are not appropriate at all and should be avoided for Jewish services.
Why aren’t flowers part of Jewish funeral arrangements?
In Jewish funeral traditions, flowers can seem like an interruption to the mourning process. The Jewish faith believes that everyone is equal in death and should be treated as such. Adornments like flowers disrupt this sense of equality and so are generally avoided in Jewish services.
As well as this, Jewish funerals are an incredibly solemn occasion and Jewish death condolences are expected to mirror and highlight this solemnity. Flower arrangements are perceived by Jewish people to detract from the seriousness of the occasion and take attention away from the true purpose of the funeral.
Jewish funeral protocol
There is a specific protocol and order to Jewish funerals, which differ from most of our common experiences of funeral services. Jewish funerals take place as soon as possible and, as we’ve already covered, are austere, plain, and solemn occasions.
Following this, the immediate family of the loved one who has passed will sit shiva for seven days in mourning. Over the course of this week, the family will remain at home coming to terms with their grief and loss in a deep process of mourning and healing.
The main purpose of shiva (which literally translates to “seven”), is to create a space of comfort and community for Jewish families to grieve. Friends and family of the mourners can then visit the home to offer their support and condolences.
When visiting a home in which shiva is taking place, visitors usually avoid initiating conversation. Their role as a visitor is to listen and support the mourners and so all conversation should be focused on the person who has passed. A simple and concise greeting such as, ‘may you suffer no more’, or ‘may the place console you’ is best to express your sympathy when leaving a mourner.
And as for what to bring to a Jewish funeral? We’ll cover that now.
Jewish memorial gifts
Knowing you can’t send flowers can make it difficult to know what to send for Jewish funerals. However, just as there is a protocol to Jewish funeral proceedings, so too is there a pretty straightforward protocol for sending Jewish condolence gifts. Let’s take a look.
The best Jewish funeral gifts
One of the most popular and practical gifts for a Jewish funeral is an offering of food in the form of a shiva basket, tray or meal. This is a wonderful gift option as during shiva mourners generally don’t leave the house. Providing food saves them from needing to cook or worry about food during their mourning, as well as providing much-needed sustenance.
Consider gifting fruit baskets or you can create your own shiva basket with customary food stuffs like nuts, baked goods, fruit, desserts and even chocolates. Trays of fish, meat, and other planned foods as well as planned meals or even a catered meal can also be a possible gift option. Just be sure to avoid pork or shellfish to keep your food gift kosher.
Planting a tree
Gifts that are lasting and permanent are popular when offering condolences. Planting a tree in Israel is a beautiful and popular way to honor the life of the deceased. Not only does it provide a place and monument for loved ones to visit and remember the dead, it also is a symbol of their life continuing and remaining immortal in the endless circle of nature.
Bringing something from Israel to the grave of the deceased is another thoughtful way to pay homage to someone who has passed and their family. Stones from Jerusalem are a lovely option.
What better way to honor the life and memory of a loved one than with a contribution to a charitable organization? In Jewish funeral traditions it is common to perform an act of tsedakah, or charity, to demonstrate sympathy for Jewish mourners. Typically, this kind of donation will be to a charity that was close to the deceased’s heart or to a synagogue.
However, don’t forget that often the best way to express your condolences - regardless of whether someone is Jewish or not - is simply to be there, as a supportive shoulder, a sympathetic ear, and a comforting pair of open arms.
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