Death and Mourning

The most profound loss we ever experience is death. Everyone knows that death is universal and the inevitable fate of everyone. Everyone knows that someday people whom we love dearly will leave us. Yet what everyone knows does not ease our pain when death occurs.

Jewish tradition meets this difficult moment with wisdom, compassion and a pattern of laws and traditions which provide direction and guidance when the chaos of death may feel overwhelming. At these painful times, friends and family do their best to offer consolation and their support is appreciated. Our Synagogue community will also be present to help you at this difficult moment in your life.

At the Time of Death

In the event of a death of a member or relative, please contact the Jewish funeral home of your choice. The funeral home will inform and co-ordinate arrangements for the funeral and burial with us:

Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel: 416-663-9060

Hebrew Basic Burial: 416-780-0596

Steeles Memorial Chapel:  905-881-6003

As a sign of respect, a member of the family or a friend should remain with the deceased until a representative of the funeral home arrives.

Clergy

Please contact one of our rabbis as soon as possible. They can provide guidance and support for you and your family. One of them is always on call. You may reach them through their synagogue phone or through our emergency number.

Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl 416-781-3514 ext. 228

Rabbi Adam Cutler 416-781-3514 ext. 219

Emergency (after hours) 416-781-3514 ext. 8

If a death occurs on Shabbat or Festivals, arrangements will be made following the conclusion of these sacred days.

The rabbi will inform you what has to be done and arrange to meet with you and other members of the family. At this meeting, you will be able to inform the Rabbi about your loved one, inquire about the Jewish laws and customs of mourning, and discuss your personal feelings and particular problems.

Until after the funeral, a mourner is not obligated to recite daily prayers or to do other affirmative mitzvot. However, the prohibitions of the shiva begin to apply to the mourner. 

Organ Donations and Autopsies

The Torah views the human body as sacred and inviolable. However, Jewish law does permit an autopsy when absolutely required by civil law or to save another life. In all such matters, the Rabbi should be consulted.

Regarding organ donations, the saving of life takes priority over the sanctity of the body. We view the donation of body organs as a mitzvah. However, any unused tissue, blood and organs must be returned for burial with the body.

Burial

Jewish tradition mandates a simple casket, such as an unlined plain pine box. We strongly discourage the use of a vault since it interferes with the Biblical ideal of "ashes to ashes, dust to dust".  We honour the dead by following our Torah tradition which emphasizes the equality of each person before the Holy One.

The body of the deceased is prepared for burial with special rites known as tohorah (purification). After the tohorah, the deceased is clothed in linen shrouds. Since all are equal in death, all are dressed the same way. Males are also cloaked with a tallit. 

It will be necessary for you to verify whether the deceased owns a cemetery plot. If not, the funeral home will make arrangements with the cemetery administrator for the family to acquire one at the cemetery office at an agreed time.

Shiva

Shiva means seven and refers to the seven days of mourning (the day of burial is day one, followed by five “full” days, concluding the morning of the last day). It is customary to cover the mirrors in the house of mourning in preparation for the shiva.

Friends should prepare food for the mourners to eat upon returning from the cemetery. The seudat havra'a (meal of condolence) includes foods which are round, such as hard-boiled eggs or lentils. It is obligatory for the mourners to eat this meal, but Jewish law does not require the visitors at the house to eat, nor does it require the grieving family to provide food for visitors.

During the shiva, in addition to personal visits, regular services are held in the home. Some families maintain morning and evening worship in the home; some prefer to pray at Beth Tzedec in the morning and to have home services in the evening. These prayer services are usually led by family or friends and occasionally by clergy or synagogue volunteers. Prayer books for the shiva house are available for loan from the Synagogue office.  Please contact our Ritual Director, Lorne Hanick at 416-781-3514 ext. 240 to make arrangements for prayer books or to have a service leader attend.

Mourning Rituals After Shiva

Mourning in the Torah tradition involves refraining from some things and actively doing others. During the first thirty days (a year for those grieving parents), it is customary to avoid celebratory parties, large gatherings and live music. It is also traditional for mourners to regularly attend synagogue to recite Kaddish during the first year following death. Learn more about our daily services.

Unveilings

A tombstone may be erected and dedicated at any time after the first month following the death. The stone may be dedicated at a service led by a member of the family, using a service booklet provided by Beth Tzedec. If you would like a rabbi to lead the service, please contact Lynn Levy at 416-781-3514 ext. 227 to make arrangements.

Yahrtzeit

On the anniversary of the Hebrew date of death, it is customary to attend daily services to say Kaddish. Beth Tzedec sends reminders of the Yahrtzeit (year-time) to mourners as long as the mourner remains a member of the congregation. This reminder informs the mourner of the times and date the name of the deceased will be read.

It is also customary to give tzedakah in memory of the deceased. Please contact Avital Narvey at 416-781-3511 to sponsor a breakfast or seudah or make a donation.

Yizkor

The Jewish calendar provides four occasions during the year when special Memorial Services are held:

  • Yom Kippur
  • Shemini Atzeret (the 8th day of Sukkot)
  • the last day of Pesaẖ
  • Shavuot

Yizkor provides a remembrance opportunity to those members of the congregation whose loved ones have died. Beth Tzedec publishes a booklet with Yizkor prayers and other special readings which includes the opportunity to memorialize loved ones each year. 

Memorial Plaques

Beth Tzedec provides the opportunity to purchase a memorial plaque in the sanctuary on special wall tablets. Lights are kindled beside the plaque in observance of Yahrtzeit. To order memorial plaques, please contact Maya Vasserman at 416-781-3514 ext. 216.