Morethodoxy: Exploring the Breadth, Depth and Passion of Orthodox Judaism

“Hyim we will need your help tonight with a tahara,” said my father.

“But I have never done one,” I replied.

“There are only two of us available, and I hear the man was heavy, bloated, so we will need you.”

A tahara (literally “purification”) is the Jewish process of washing, dressing and preparing a dead body for burial. It is performed by a quiet dedicated group in every Jewish community called the, chevrah kadisha, literally, “the Holy Society.”  Since Jews do not delay burial, the process invariably occurs late at night, on short notice, in preparation for burial the next day.

The groups’ name comes from the modest, profoundly giving work it does without any recompense. It is a Jewish holy act to bury the dead, a chesed shel emet, a “true kindness.” An act with no expectation of repayment, for its recipient cannot. Even the…

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