FUNERALS, FLOWERS & The Good Rabbi

I don't want the reader to come to the conclusion that I regard all religious practices as necessarily negative or inconsequential.  Religion, once understood as man's creation to explain divinity, can offer healing consolation during times of suffering.  Death is certainly one of those times.

Many may be unaware that flowers are traditionally absent from a Jewish funeral.  When I researched this a bit it seems that in times past, flowers and spices became of the mourning ritual in cultures which "waked" the dead.  Delayed burial, open caskets when embalming was incomplete resulted in disturbing odors.  Flowers and spices helped reduce them

Jewish practices call for burial within 24hours under most circumstances.  Flowers were not deemed necessary or fitting.

In the Fall I attended my cousin's funeral.  She was 92 and a fine artist.  She had met many friends though her work and one couple who attended and spoke were not Jewish.  They brought a small pail of flower petals with the intention of placing them on top of the casket.

I watched the Rabbi who was officiating.  I do not recall his name but understood that he was "retired" from his congregational work and did funerals.  I wasn't quite sure how he was going to react to the presence of the flowers.

He could have made explained how flowers are inappropriate for a Jewish funeral.   But he didn't.  Without missing a beat he, instead, suggested that we all take a few petals and sprinkle them over the coffin.

I'm not sure how many people standing at the graveside understood what the Rabbi did.  He understood the deep love and sadness which brought this non Jewish couple to the funeral that day.  He understood the spiritual intention, kavanah in Hebrew,  behind their act.

He did the right thing.  He was a good Rabbi.

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