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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:

Jewish Death Practices

A Deeper Understanding


Death is a stage of life, with its own rituals and observances appropriate for that stage, including how we honor the deceased and how we mourn. Jewish death practices help us cope as we witness death and process the depth of trauma in personal and communal life that arises when death occurs. These customs show dignity to our deceased and provide comfort to the mourners. Just as we strive to show respect to each other in daily life, Jewish custom continues this practice by infusing all of our death-related practices with respect and dignity.   We consider each person to be a holy being, created b’tzelem Elohim.

Introduction


Each person has within them a holy soul, a spark of the Divine, that animates and gives life to each of us. Our tradition teaches that when we die, the soul lives on independent of the body. Hence, we continue this tradition of honor by giving the same respect to the dead that we give to the living, including care for the dead between death and burial.  We go to great lengths to show loving kindness in our death rituals to preserve the modesty and dignity of the deceased between death and burial, as well as in post-burial rituals and prayers.

Everyone dies, and this is expected and viewed as part of life. In every Jewish worship service, we say the Mourners’ Kaddish, a prayer that does not mention death, but is part of the communal ritual by which we support those dealing with a death in their family. This prayer is also a reminder to everyone that life is a gift, one not to be taken for granted. The Jewish life continuum includes aging, dying, death, and mourning — honoring the holiness inherent in each of these stages as threads in the tapestry of life.

Details


Judaism provides a framework for facing death. Both the dead and the living are treated with respect and love.  We honor the holiness of life through how we prepare our dead for burial, and Jewish mourning rituals give a structure to help the mourner move though the grieving process and encourage the mourner to face death, move through those times in meaningful ways, and to then re-enter life in a gradual manner.  Each step of this process is imbued with respect for both the deceased and a beautiful, insightful understanding of the needs of the mourner – and ultimately, a deep appreciation for the sanctity of life.

Learn more about Jewish mourning practices here.

Jewish end-of-life practices cover a large spectrum of customs and rituals. The actions included in some of these continue as they have been for centuries. While maintaining the spiritual essence, others today include new innovations such as virtual attendance using online technology. For the rituals between death and burial, we continue to honor the holiness of life in both the living and the dead with a special team who cares for our dead.  The Chevrah Kadisha is the name of this team that honors the dead through taharah and shmirah. The activities of each chevrah may also include sewing tachrichim, helping to fill in graves at the burial, preparing meals of consolation, leading, or attending shiva services, and helping to educate the community about Jewish death practices.

Learn more about the Chevrah Kadisha here.

 

Resources to Learn More


 

Jewish practices and rituals contain specific ways of caring for the dead. The central values underlying all of these customs are to provide respect and kindness for the dead and to give comfort and support to the mourners.


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

Practical

Textual

Emotional

Spiritual

Death Practices from the Practical / Physical Perspective

Jewish death practices help us navigate as we witness death and process the trauma in personal and communal life that arises when death occurs.  Jews support the living through extensive practices of caring for and mourning the dead, which enable us to show honor and respect to the deceased, ourselves, our families, our community, and to the flow of life.

Death Practices from the Intellectual / Textual Perspective

Jewish death practices come from biblical and Talmudic teachings and stories that have served the Jewish community over centuries.  Our liturgy includes death in daily prayers and services and special times in the yearly cycle to remember our dead.  There are specific rituals involved in caring for the dead, each of which includes its own liturgy, prayers, and texts.

Death Practices from the Emotional / Feelings Perspective

Jewish death practices help us cope as we confront death and process our grief both personally and communally. The foundation of our practices are respect and honor for everyone involved: the living and the dead. Jewish mourning practices honor the depth of feelings when death occurs, providing a framework of support for mourners to grieve, and to help them re-enter into life gradually.

Death Practices from the Spiritual / Soul Perspective

Jews hold respect for others, as we consider each person to be a holy being created in the image of God, with a holy soul, a spark of the Divine within them that animates and gives life to each of us.  When we die, this soul lives on after the body is no longer living. Thus, we give the same respect to the dead that we give to the living.

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Deeper Understanding

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