Chesed Shel Emes Society of California
What is a חברה קדשא
Usually translated as ”holy society,” a Chevra Kadisha is a group of volunteers who are on call to prepare a deceased person for burial according to time-honored Jewish traditions. The Hebrew for a deceased person is meyt (male) and meyta (female). The Chevra Kadisha’s ultimate concern is to care for the meyt/meyta with respect and kindness. Members of the Chevra Kadisha maintain strict confidentiality out of respect for the dignity of the deceased.
Vocabulary and Understanding the work of the Chevra Kadisha
Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society) - a group of dedicated volunteers who participate on teams to prepare the dead for burial.
Met/Meta - the Hebrew word for a dead person, male/female.
Tahara (Purification) -a term used to describe the entire process of ritually washing and dressing the dead accompanied by prayer and chant. Men prepare men and women prepare women. Special efforts are made to sensitively accommodate transgender needs. Tahara is also a term that describes a specific purification ritual as part of the process-the pouring of a continuous flow of three buckets of water, totaling twenty-four quarts, over the met/meta.
Tachrichim - the simple, white cotton/muslin clothing used to dress the met/meta. These include a head/face covering, pants with closed pant legs, an inner shirt and an outer shirt (kittel). These garments represent the ritual garments worn by the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) during Yom Kippur.
Aron - plain wooden box (casket) with no metal in it that holds the met/meta. From the Bibical declarationתשוב ואלֿ־עפר אתה עפרכי־
“dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
Shomrim - people who “watch over” the met/meta so they are never left alone. Shomrim read passages from the psalms or other inspirational texts.
Chesed shel Emet (True Lovingkindness) - refers to all activities offered in attending to the needs of the dead because these acts of love can never be repaid.
(Tearing the Garment)
By tearing the mourner’s outer garment they vividly express their anguish and grief. The positive psychological impact can not be minimized.
Actual burial in the ground, including filling in the grave until a mound is formed. Participation is a religious privilege and duty. Kaddish is not recited at the open grave-side.