The body of billionaire Tob Cohen must be ritually cleansed, covered and prepared for burial according to Jewish tradition decreed in the Torah.
“Torah is the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures (the Pentateuch). In the Pentateuch we also see God’s response to sin, his relationship with mankind, and gain keen insight into the character and nature of God,” a close relative to the family told the Star.
The Torah demands that the family recites, ” Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Judge of Truth,” and tear their clothes immediately the news of his death goes out. It’s called Kria.
However, only Cohen’s parents are allowed to tear their garments since the mourners received the news of the death after an elapsed period of 30 days.
A series of interviews and documents obtained from libraries showed that people known under the Torah as Shmira have been watching over his body and reciting Psalms.
The culture also demands him to have made it clear to the loved ones in a will that his funeral must adhere to Jewish tradition when he was still alive thereby ensuring that they will be buried in the ways of their ancestors.
The holy society
This is to be followed by another ritual known as Taharah and conducted by volunteers known in Hebrew as Chevra Kadisha(holy society) to ensure the deceased is shown proper respect by being purified (washed), ritually cleansed and shrouded.
The holy society is known in urban areas across the world and owns burial plots in various cemeteries.
They support the mourning families by organising prayer services, preparing meals and providing other services for mourners. They hold annual festivals to study and remain up to date with relevant Jewish laws.
Most Jews pay an annual token to the society so that when the time comes, the society will not only attend to the body as befits Jewish law (believed to be an honour) but will also ensure burial in a plot that it controls at an appropriate nearby Jewish cemetery.
On the escort day
The Jews call the burial day ‘the escort day’ while the mourners are called aveil. There is no body viewing. Staunch Jews are not buried in a casket but small traditional garments known as tallits.
Those who prefer caskets ensure they are simple and made of unfinished wood; finished wood with metal would slow the return of the body to dust (Genesis 3:19).
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The eulogy is both for the deceased and the living. They are not recited on Friday afternoon and when there is a new moon among other days.
It should make people cry. However, some people specify in their wills that nothing should be said about them. The burial is delayed since the casket will be carried from the hearse to the grave in seven stages.
Mourning takes 12 months with the aveil taking part in three stages. The first group called Shiva takes seven days, Shloshim will mourn for 30 days while Yud Bais Chodesh 12 months.
When a mourner is a Kohen
The Torah states that a Kohen (descendants of Aaron the high-priest) are not permitted to come in contact with the body.
The tradition demands that a Kohen must be six feet away from the deceased. The Cohens are not also allowed to spend a night under the same roof as the deceased.