Chevra Kadisha

Summer                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

Mother's DayKate’s meeting with Rabbi Jamie of Congregation Beth Evergreen today. A joining up meeting. This is an ancientrail she began to walk a long time ago, converting at Temple Israel under Rabbi Max Shapiro. She felt at home within the Jewish tradition. The power of feeling at home, that this place is my place, these people are my people, may be the most significant feeling we ever have. Why? Because it locates us, puts us in context, gives us a base.

Last night we attended a learning session for the chevra kadisha, a burial society that guards a person’s body from the minute they die to the point of burial. They also wash the corpse, may wrap it in a traditional shroud. They do all this anonymously.

We watched the movie, Taking Chance, about the process and journey of caring for the body of pfc. James Phelps from his death in Iraq to his burial in Wyoming. Though focused on military ritual, it apparently conveyed much of the Jewish attitude toward honoring the dead and caring for the corpse in a respectful and dignified way.

Jewish tradition and the Jewish faith cannot be separated. This is a thousands year old culture that has survived many dislocations, much persecution and yet retained its link to the very distant past. Rabbi Jamie said the origin of the guarding of the body was quite literal, coming from a time when wild animals might approach a corpse as scavengers. Obviously a long time ago. But the respect and care that began in this practical way has been transmuted in the alchemy of time into a spiritual practice.

This is not my way; but it is a way, one with depth. I look forward to learning more about this ancient faith and walking with Kate along her path.