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What is the Hineni Learning Tool?

Hineni is a unique, interactive, web-based tool that gives users a simple, ergonomic, and fast way to get information about Jewish death practices. The word, Hineni, is the transliteration of a Hebrew phrase used in the Torah, meaning "Here I am." It was chosen to indicate this tool is here to give succinct, direct answers to everyone quickly and easily. Hineni is intended to be used by various audiences, starting with (1) with those who directly serve families (funeral directors, cemetery workers, hospice personnel, Jewish clergy, chaplains, death doulas, and hospital personnel, who want to learn more to be better able to serve Jewish families and who want to assist families in making end-of-life decisions), and (2) families facing death of a loved one who wish to learn more about our traditions. We also envision community leaders using this tool as they prepare drashot for services, lectures, or classes, along with Chevrah Kadisha workers who want to expand their abilities to share these practices with their community. Additional possible users could include bnei mitzvot classes and their teachers, chevrah leaders, chevrah volunteers, local education champions,  Jewish community lay leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish clergy, JADE helpline responders, and synagogue caring committee members. Acknowledgements The Hineni tool was developed by the JADE staff as a part of ongoing community educational efforts to find the best ways to disseminate and share knowledge about Jewish end-of-life practices, rites, customs, and traditions. An acknowledgement of the contribution of our staff is shown below.
Concept:
Rick Light
Prototype:
Rick Light
Coordination:
Isabel Knight
Content:
HollyBlue Hawkins, Rick Light
Editing:
Rick Light, David Zinner
Marketing
Isabel Knight, Susan Kramer
Implementation:

Burial and Disposition

A Deeper Understanding


For centuries, Jewish burial has been a central event in Jewish death practices. Since Biblical times Jews have been buried in the ground.

Overview


Honoring the dead (Kavod hameit) is the basis for all the Jewish death practices

Traditional in-ground burial includes burying the casketed body in a grave six-feet deep and marking it with an upright gravestone or a flat footstone.  There is a similar approach known as “natural burial,” in which the body is placed, sometimes without a casket, into a shallow grave (three feet deep rather than six). There may be a small natural stone marker rather than a traditional gravestone.

Details


Traditional Jewish burial can be in a dedicated Jewish cemetery or a municipal or private cemetery with a Jewish section. Throughout our history, there have been in-ground burials, as evidenced by the Biblical burial grounds of our forefathers and foremothers in Hebron.

In the US, older cemeteries often did not require a grave liner (a concrete container into which the casket is placed), whereas modern cemeteries often have this requirement in order to prevent slumping of the grounds when caskets deteriorate.

Today, Jewish tradition is to bury the dead in-ground. If the deceased is to be buried in Israel or to be buried in a family plot, disinterment may occur. In our modern world, rather than in-ground burial, new forms of non-traditional methods of disposition have arisen. However, burial is the traditional Jewish practice.

Modern Disposition Methods


While burial is still the traditional Jewish custom, it is appropriate to be educated about modern practices within the society around us.

  • Donation to Science:  With full-body donation to science, a donated body is typically used by medical students to learn anatomy and by medical professionals when learning new surgical techniques. Often, after one year, the remaining parts of the body are cremated and increasingly today a memorial service is held. Full-body donation is a form of kindness to support future generations’ medical knowledge. There is no guarantee that the donating family will be notified when use of the body is no longer required.
  • Alkaline Hydrolysis:  In the "liquid cremation" process (fluid dissolving of remains), the body is placed into a container filled with a solution that dissolves the tissues. When this is completed, the solution is discarded, and the bones are ground into a powder.
  • Human Composting:  In "Natural Organic Reduction" (human composting), the body is placed into a container with a significant amount of alfalfa and straw, and left to compost over a period of time. After this, any hardware that remains (such as screws or joint replacements) is removed, the bones are collected, crushed, and remixed with the remains to create the resultant cubic yard of material which can then be given to the family.
  • Cremation:  Cremation is the incineration of the body followed by the grinding of remaining bones into a powder. While cremation has been thought by some to be environmentally more attractive than burial, it is now known that the process releases many pollutants into the air and uses significant fossil fuel in the process. During WW2, Hitler chose cremation because it is so antithetical to Jewish belief. In the context of a post-Holocaust world many Jews feel it is an inappropriate method of disposition.

Resources to Learn More


 

Jewish history over hundreds of years has followed the in-ground burial tradition, and families today are encouraged to follow this time-honored approach. 

Click on icons below to learn about this topic from different perspectives.

Practical

Textual

Emotional

Spiritual

Burial and Disposition from the Practical / Physical Perspective

For thousands of years, Jewish burial has been a central event in Jewish death practices. Jewish in-ground burial involves placing the casketed body into a grave.  Those in attendance are encouraged to literally bury their dead by shoveling earth onto the casket until it is covered and in many cases, continue until the grave is filled in.

Burial and Disposition from the Intellectual / Textual Perspective

The burial liturgy commonly includes Psalms, the El Malei Rachamim prayer, and Kaddish.  In addition, there may be eulogies and stories of the deceased shared by family and friends.

Burial and Disposition from the Emotional / Feelings Perspective

After the casket is lowered into the ground, the mourners and those in attendance begin to fill in the grave. The sound of the first thud of earth onto the casket is both powerful and profound. It makes the death of our loved one real; there is no denying what is being done. Burying the dead is considered a way for us to imitate God who was the One to bury Moses.   The presence of the community provides comfort to mourners whose emotions are raw and deep at this liminal time.

Burial and Disposition from the Spiritual / Soul Perspective

All people are created in the image of the Divine (b'tzelem Elohim), with our soul living on after the body dies. Burial is an important aspect of the journey of the soul. Our mystical tradition teaches that the soul leaves in stages. Until burial the soul is thought to stay near its body.  Burial allows the soul to begin its ascent into the spiritual realms.

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Deeper Understanding

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