Transformations of the Soul: The Tahara Experience

First Published in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice

Judaism most often approaches the soul's many transformations on the "journey called life" by including rituals of chessed. These involve expressions of overflowing loving kindness via water, washing, immersion.

Do Jewish Burials Require a Coffin?

Dear Rabbi:

My cousin who is dying of pancreatic cancer keeps talking about wanting to be buried without a coffin. Don't Jewish funerals require a plain wooden box?

Thanks for the favor of your reply, Orna

Dear Orna:

A Tahara How-to Story

Long before I became a rabbi, a young social work colleague and mother of three was dying of a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. She called me one day to ask if we could meet privately because she had something to share and a favor to ask.

We met on the king-sized bed in her bedroom. She looked skeletal. Strewn upon the bed were all of her volunteer projects, tasks she kept up with until virtually her last breath. She wanted to share some of the wisdom and methods she’d gathered in her years as a social worker. What a profound honor; her ideas were very deep, and I use her methods to this day. Then came the “favor.”