Chesed Shel Emes Society of California
What is טהרה
Taharah is known as Chesed Shel Emes, an act of true kindness. This is because the person who is the beneficiary of the act can not express their appreciation to those doing it for them.
Taharah is the ancient Jewish method of preparation of remains for burial. The basic procedures date back to Abraham and Sarah.
Taharah is the physical and spiritual preparation of the deceased (meyt/meyta) for burial. Just as Jews have ancient traditions for welcoming a newborn, there are proscribed customs for preparing the dead for burial.
Taharah means purification. Ecclesiastes says “As he came....so shall he go.” In the same way that a newborn child is washed, entering the world in purity, we are to depart this world cleansed and made pure recognizes the sanctity of the body as the repository during life of our holy soul.
In addition to the physical cleansing and dressing of the body, there are prayers which are recited by the members of the Chevra Kadisha. These prayers ask the Almighty to forgive the individual for any sins they may have committed; they praise the individual; and they ask the All-Merciful to grant the deceased eternal life.
Trained volunteers from the chevra kadisha of the Chesed Shel Emes Society perform the tahara with respect and tenderness, assisting the transition of the body and soul from this world. Women care for women, men for men and regard their participation as a privilege as well as an act of loving kindness.
Aside from the religious significance, there are other reasons why every Jew should have Taharah. First and foremost, care for the remains of the deceased should be done with the greatest respect. Unfortunately, the funeral business today is just that, a business. The people
who actually prepare remains do so because it is a job. Not because they are preparing a holy vessel for its return to the Almighty’s care. Many of the procedures employed are contrary to Jewish tradition. The modesty of the individual is compromised. The sanctity of the body is not properly recognized.
In contrast, the members of the chevra kadisha are required to always remember how sacred is their task. They routinely ask forgiveness of the deceased for any indignity which they cause. Men are only allowed to perform Taharah for men; women for women. Thus the individual’s
modesty is preserved. The remains are handled with loving care. For the day will arrive (until Mashiach and Techias HaMaisim) when each member will also require this care.
After death, the soul returns to stand in judgement before the Almighty. It is the soul’s final Yom Kippur. It is most appropriate that the person be dressed in tachrichim. These are the traditional burial clothing modeled after what the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) wore in the Bait Hamikdash (Holy Temple) on Yom Kippur. What a tremendous honor it is for those privileged to help prepare the mortal remains of the holy Jewish soul for its final rest. It is further important to be aware that Jewish tradition teaches that the soul remains attached to the body after death for some days. It is fully aware of what transpires with its’ mortal remains. We are taught that the soul is in a state of confusion from the time of passing until burial. It inhabited the physical body for however long, and now, it is uncertain: Is it still with the body or is it now detached and moving to the Heavenly Spheres? It feels what the body feels as if it were still alive. Members of the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Burial Society) always keep this in mind as they do their holy work. All that is done in a Jewish funeral is thus for the benefit of the deceased. This is contrary to the popular belief that the funeral is for the living. Quite the opposite.
Knowing this, knowing the loving care with which the members of the Chesed Shel Emes
Chevra will carry out their sacred duty, we have created the Chesed Shel Emes Society of
Californiato to insure that every Jew will be able to receive the same loving care.
It is a great mitzvah to contribute to a community chevra kadisha. By so doing, you are
participating in fulfilling the mitzvah of Taharah just as if you were physically there.