Best Of The Web
“I met Holly Blue Hawkins at the Limmud Festival in England last year. She led a session called “What 20 years in a chevra kadisha has taught me about living.” I wept through the entire hour.
Hawkins is the head of the chevra kadisha (burial society) in Santa Cruz, California, She also serves on the board of trustees of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of the state of California, teaches end-of-life planning classes in synagogues and schools, participates in Death Cafes (informal discussion groups about death and dying), and speaks at Kavod v’Nichum (literally “honor and comfort”) conferences.
The Jewish process of preparing a body for burial is dead simple, as it were. Members of the chevra kadisha wash their hands. They say a prayer asking forgiveness for any inadvertent offenses committed during the tahara, the process of cleansing and purification. They remove jewelry, wipe the body with warm cloths, wash it in a ritual bath or with poured buckets of water, recite “tehora hee” (“she is pure”) together. They dry the body tenderly, dress it in plain white cotton muslin or linen, tie the strings on the clothing so that the loops form a letter shin for Shaddai, one of God’s names. They may wrap the body in a prayer shawl, if the person wore one to pray in life. Then they place the body in a plain pine box and wrap it in a white cotton or linen sheet.
Hawkins’ interest in the liminal process of dying began back in the 1980s, when she was co-leading support groups in the Maui Community Corrections Facility. After moving to California, she worked as a paralegal, helping clients with estate planning and advance-care directives, before moving into chevra kadisha service. Here’s some wisdom gleaned from her Limmud talk and from a long-ranging interview conducted last week.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"The United States and Russia are entering a new arms race, and the costs aren’t just monetary. On August 8, Russian civilians around the remote village of Nyonoksa found themselves downwind of a military nuclear propulsion experiment gone wrong..."
"I don't know about you, but for me "Having more people run for president and effectively doubling the number of primary contests" is not up there with "Michigan beating Notre Dame in the playoffs" and "A new deluxe edition of Barbara Bush's..."
"A growing body of research suggests that, rather than posing a threat to individual wellbeing, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle represents a pathway to a more satisfied life. Numerous studies have found that people who purchase green..."
"What should a parent do when a 2-year-old shrieks inconsolably because her string cheese wrapper tore “the wrong way”? Increasingly, the answer is “snap a photo, add a snarky caption and upload it to Instagram.” Publicly laughing at your..."
"The yield curve’s inverted! The yield curve’s inverted! That was the news I awoke to last Wednesday on CNBC as the 10 year Treasury note yield dipped below the 2 year yield for the first time since 2007. That’s the sign everyone has been waiting..."
"Even a casual observer of the entertainment industry knows that Hollywood is hooked on established intellectual property at the expense of original ideas and awash in more money than it knows how to sensibly spend. But three stories about the..."
"One of the formative texts of the Safed myth, which first portrayed the town as a unique place and which was responsible for spreading word of it all around the Jewish world, is the four letters that Rabbi Solomon Shlumil of Dreznitz sent, in..."
"There are lots of reasons to patent something. The most obvious one is that you’ve come up with a brilliant invention, and you want to protect your idea so that nobody can steal it from you. But that’s just the tip of the patent strategy iceberg..."