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Death and the Afterlife

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Death and the Afterlife For my first piece of coursework, I will be studying what takes place under the Jewish religion in the subject "Death and the Afterlife." I have chosen this topic because I find it very interesting as my Grandfather was Jewish and had a Jewish funeral. I was young and did not understand what was happening and I would like to understand now. The Jewish religion has very particular beliefs about death and funerals. They are very clear about the procedures that should take before and during the funeral and have strict guidelines to make sure that everything is carried out correctly. Jews believe that death is not a tragedy, whatever circumstances in which it occurs. They believe that because death is a natural process, it has as much meaning as our lives have had, and is all part of God's plan. They also believe that all those who have been worthy of God's love in life, will be rewarded in death and will have an afterlife in a new world. There is a complex connection between the belief in heaven and hell, the journey that the soul may take after death, and how heaven and hell are conceptualised. However, there is an ambiguity as to how these concepts are understood. ...read more.


It is because they are spiritually impure and one must therefore symbolically remove the impurities. In order to prepare for the burial, the body is thoroughly cleaned. The body is then wrapped in a simple white linen shroud. The tombstone is also plain. Coffins are not required but if they are to be used, they should have holes in them so that the body comes in contact with the earth. In order not to differentiate between those who in life were rich or poor, the procedure is the same for all. Jews believe that in death everyone is equal and no one is to be treated or honoured greater than anyone else. At a funeral, the body is never displayed. Jewish law forbids this as it is considered to be an act of disrespect. This is because it allows both friends and enemies to see the body, enabling those who dislike the deceased to mock their helplessness. Law requires a tombstone for all the dead. This is to make sure that no one is forgotten. In some Jewish communities, it is customary to keep the tombstone veiled until the twelve-month mourning period is over. This is because some Jews believe that the deceased will not be forgotten during the year when he/she is being mourned for every day. ...read more.


Once the year is up. The family must go back to living completely normal lives. They must however, on the anniversary of the death by reciting Kaddish and reading the Torah in the synagogue. They must also light a candle, which will burn for twenty-four hours in honour of the dead. In conclusion, I feel that from my own personal perspective, I perceive there to be both strengths and weaknesses within the Jewish practices around death and mourning. The fact of there being a collective understanding in terms of ritual, practice, expectations and undertaking must in itself provide a strong sense of emotional security and support. Everyone knows their role and what is expected of them within a day-to-day framework. It is a shared experience, one in which no one is alone. However, there seems to be inflexibility within the mourning process, which perhaps does not allow for individual response and needs. The expectation that within the space of a week one will be emotionally ready to return to normality, seems to limit the possibilities in terms of differing ways and time-scales in terms of dealing with loss. On a personal level, I would the rigidity of the process, particularly in terms of the time-scales, inhibiting. Perhaps I would feel unable to express my grief when needed because the expectations of others are dictated by ritual rather than by personal feelings. ...read more.

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