Preparations and Burial
Preparation of the Remains (Tahara)
One of the most important elements of a proper Jewish burial is the Tahara, preparing the body by the Chevra Kaddisha for its final rest, until the Resurrection of the Dead in the era of Moshiach. There is no mystery to the Tahara. It is a simple, yet dignified ritual that allows the person to meet his Maker with the utmost respect and dignity.
A proper Tahara includes cleansing, ritually washing, and dressing the deceased's body.
The Tachrichim - Shrouds and Dressing
Unlike in other religions and practices, a Jewish person is not buried in his or her usual clothing. Similarly, jewelry or other adornments are not worn. As discussed earlier, one's soul and its spiritual rectification is far more important following death than any honor he could possibly get from his association with earthly possessions. Thus, the Jewish funeral emphasizes the spiritual and sublime over the physical and material.
According to Jewish tradition, a deceased's body is dressed in plain white Tachrichim (traditional shrouds). These garments are hand-made from linen or muslin.
In addition to Tachrichim, a man is also buried in his Tallit (prayer shawl). The Tallit should be given to the Chevra Kaddisha before they prepare the body for burial. In the case that a man did not have his Tallit, the funeral home will usually provide one.
The aron - Traditional Casket
It is a Torah commandment to return the body to the earth upon passing, as it it written "Unto dust shall you return" (Genesis 3:19). Our sages teach that this means placing the body directly in the ground with no casket. In Israel, this is still the prevailing custom. In America common convention is to use a simple, wooden casket.
Jewish tradition requires that the person be buried in a plain, modest, casket. The casket must be made from material that will disintegrate in the ground, allowing the body to return to the bosom of the earth as quickly as possible, and enabling the soul to attain true and final peace.
It is an age-old desire of Jewish people to be buried in the Land of Israel because of its sanctity, which is said to aid in the soul's atonement. When burial occurs in any other country, the Chevra Kaddisha places earth from the Land of Israel in the casket.