chapter  9
9 Pages

POST-TALMUDIC DEVELOPMENTS IN JEWISH DEATH-PRACTICE

Readers familiar with contemporary traditional1 Jewish practices relating to death, the funeral and burial, will have been surprised by some of what they saw in prior chapters. “How did the practices and beliefs described here develop into those with which I am familiar?” they will have found themselves asking, perhaps many times. The surprises emerge on both sides of the ledger. On the one hand, practices taken for granted by the classical rabbinic works, such as anointing the deceased, the standing and sitting ritual, overturning the beds, covering the upper lip, and reburial – to enumerate only a few examples – seem to find little or no memory in later Jewish practice. On the other hand, practices later generations view as central to death and mourning ritual, such as recitation of the kaddish, are totally unknown in this connection in the early rabbinic sources. Indeed, it is difficult to avoid the question: How did that come to be this?