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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.
Rick Light
Rick Light
Isabel Knight
HollyBlue Hawkins, Rick Light
Rick Light, David Zinner
Isabel Knight, Susan Kramer

Kriah – Tearing

A Deeper Understanding

Tearing one’s clothing (or wearing a cut black ribbon) is an expression of grief and a sign of mourning. The ancient practice of tearing clothes is a tangible expression of the tear in one’s heart, and the depth of grief and anger in the aftermath of death. Kriah, the ritual tearing of one's garment, recognizes that it is only the outer garment (representing the body) that has been torn from our lives as we begin to mourn for a death, while our love and relationship with the deceased remains in tact, albeit not in the physical realm.


Kriah is performed by mourners (usually immediate family, but anyone who wishes can do this ritual). It is performed by those who are present for a death, upon hearing of a death, prior to the funeral, or at the gravesite.  An officiant makes a small cut or tear in clothing or a black ribbon that the mourner continues to tear while reciting Baruch Dayan Emet, “Blessed is the True Judge.” Then this garment or ribbon is worn as a sign of mourning.

The ripping of clothing (or for some, tearing a pinned-on ribbon), is the first concrete, primal action the mourner can take to enter into the world of grieving. Kriah is the physical expression of grief, sadness, and anger that one’s world has been torn asunder. It helps us recognize that an aspect of the fabric of life will never be whole anymore. It is designed to help the mourner and others create an “opening” for the release of deep feelings.

Kriah gives the mourner a physical reminder of the death of their loved one.  It also shows the world that the bereaved is in a state of mourning, giving others an opportunity to provide comfort. While rending garments is an outward representation of grief, it is only the outer garment (representing the body) that has been torn. The soul of the deceased, and the love that the deceased and the mourners have for each other, remains, and may even grow stronger over time. The tearing of kriah has come to represent the end of the physical relationship between the mourner and their loved one, while emotional and spiritual relationships continue.


Kriah is a Hebrew word meaning “tearing.” This was done by our patriarch Jacob when he was told that his son Joseph was killed by animals.  Jacob then tore his garments (Genesis 37:34). Likewise, we are told that King David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them upon hearing of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan (II Samuel 1:11–12). Job, too, in grieving for his children, stood up and tore his clothing (Job 1:20).

Kriah is done while standing to show strength at a time of grief. The tear is made on the left side of the clothing for parents — over the heart — and on the right side for all other relatives.  Since kriah involves tearing, and thus quite possibly destroying one’s garments, some change into less valuable clothing prior to the kriah. Traditionally, clothing remains torn, or the ribbon is worn throughout the shiva (the first 7 days of mourning), but some wear them for 30 days, but not on Shabbat or festival days.   Some mourners preserve their torn clothing to be worn on Yahrzeit commemorations.

When a body is being transported (such as by airplane) to another location for burial (eg., for burial in Israel), mourners often perform kriah at the airport. 


Resources to Learn More



Kriah is the practice of tearing one’s clothing at the funeral or burial by family members. The tear in our clothing (or in a symbolic ribbon) is a recognition of the rip in our world which the death of a loved one represents. Mourners make a tear in their clothes while reciting a text acknowledging God as the True Judge.

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Kriah from the Practical / Physical Perspective

This act of ripping our outer clothing just prior to the funeral service enables us to begin expressing our grief over the loss of our loved one. Those who have lost a parent create a tear on the left side of the chest over the heart whereas other immediate mourners tear on the right side. The kriah ribbon, a simple black ribbon with a tear, is a modern substitute for the literal tear in the clothing. Traditionally clothing remains torn, or the ribbon is worn throughout shiva and for some for a full 30 days after the burial (excluding Shabbat and festival days).

Kriah from the Intellectual / Textual Perspective

The textual foundations for tearing clothing after hearing of a death are found in the stories of Jacob, King David, and Job. In addition, it is traditional to say, Baruch Dayan Emet, upon learning of a death. 

Kriah from the Emotional / Feelings Perspective

This emotionally searing ritual of tearing has come to represent the end of the physical relationship between the mourner and their loved one, that may momentarily make it hard to remember knowing that the emotional and spiritual relationships continue on. But, during shiva, as memories are shared, this sense of an enduring bond is restored.  This ritual of tearing has come to represent the end of the physical relationship between the mourner and their loved one, knowing that the emotional and spiritual relationships continue on.

Kriah from the Spiritual / Soul Perspective

The soul of the deceased lives on after death, and the love that the deceased and the mourners have for each other, remains, and may even grow stronger over time, as it is said that the soul is now bound up in the bonds of life.  Some mourners use kriah as a symbol of this love, preserving their torn clothing to be worn on Yahrzeit commemorations.

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