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Testimonials Vidui Unveiling Services
Yarzheit Dates Grief
For over 23 years, Rabbi Suzanne H. Carter has assisted many families in Broward and Palm Beach Counties with chapel funeral services, graveside services, memorial services (both in-chapel and in-house) and unveiling services
for their loved ones. Rabbi Carter is well known for her heartfelt services.
Thank you for explaining some of the many Jewish
traditions regarding loss and mourning, as our family gathered before the memorial service. Your kindness, interest in our family, and your thoughtful words at
the service were extremely comforting. Our conversations with you prior to the funeral, enabled you to learn about my Dad and the kind of man he was, so much so,
that as I listened to your words, it sounded as if you knew him very well. That made it a very personal and poignant service for all those assembled. We could not
have asked for any more and we are so grateful, indeed. It is clear you were meant to be doing the wonderful work you have chosen. -K
Rabbi Carter, I just wanted to send a note to thank you for your participation in my father's funeral service. You did a beautiful job of
leading that service, both in the chapel and at the national cemetery, and we very much appreciated it.
Thank you also for your support during this difficult
Rabbi Carter: I just wanted to say THANKS for all your kindness over the past year with my parent's funerals and the unveiling. Mom was
very happy about the way you conducted Dad's funeral. We all thought you were wonderful and we all are appreciative of your kind words. You know just what to say
to help to ease the pain. You seem to have a "way about you" that all religious leaders should have.
Rabbi, thank you for making the moment so meaningful. Your words were those if someone who knew our dad since childhood-
to thank you for the beautiful service you did honoring our mother. People would never have known you had not met our mother, that is how personal you made the
service. We have received many comments from people saying how much they enjoyed your officiating at the memorial. Again, thank you for all you have done for us.
- S & A
Dear Rabbi Carter,
I want to thank you for making my sister's funeral service as warm as if you had known her
through the years. Your explanations were so clear and you made me feel so much better about what I had considered a bad situation. Thank you for everything. I
was looking forward to meeting you, and you more than fulfilled my expectations. We were very fortunate to have been guided to you. Sincerely, J
Dear Rabbi Carter
Thank you so much for all you have done and continue to do in our time of mourning. So many people have
complemented your service and were shocked to know you have never met our Mom. From your endearing words, you seem to know my family for years as well. -S
wish to thank you again for all of your assistance in caring for our brother. Your burial service was as our brother would have wanted: simple and concise; We appreciate everything that you accomplished.-E
We think of you often and still applaud the beauty of your warm and eloquent
expression of caring and love at a very difficult time in our lives. May you be blessed with much happiness.
Affectionately, B & B
I just wanted to send you a quick note to thank you for the beautiful service you gave for my mother's unveiling. Even though you didn't know my mother, you made
her service very personal by having everyone speak and remember a story about her, as well as reading her favorite poem and asking all to recite it with you. We
appreciated everything you did, from the prayers and kind words said, to the wonderful brochure you created. Thank you, once again.
Vidui - About the Final Prayer
The dying process
Before the modern age there would be no confusion about what would take place just before death. In most Jewish communities,
the Chevra Kaddisha, burial society, would be called in to care for the dying person, the gosses
They recited verses from Psalm 119 that corresponded to the letters in the person’s
Hebrew name. The Chevra Kaddisha encouraged go-ses-sim (pl. gosess) to make peace with this world by encouraging them to
bless their children and ask forgiveness from their family and friends.
During the last moments of life, the go-sess has an opportunity to verbally make peace with a lifetime of accomplishments and
shortcomings through the Vidui prayer of confession. It is a mitzvah to say a personal final prayer or the traditional text,
and it is a mitzvah to help someone say it.
Unlike the Catholic ritual that is done in part to secure a heavenly abode, the Vidui acknowledges the imminence of death, recalls a
life of both goodness and missteps, and asks that the good be remembered and the misdeeds forgiven. In some versions there is a request
that those who are left behind should be granted special protection.
Generations of Jews have chosen the Shema prayer as their final utterance. This central prayer of Judaism proclaims God’s oneness:
Listen oh Israel, the Lord, Our God is One. Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. God is acknowledged as the source of all,
the Source before whom we are all equal.
When to Say the Prayer
Loss of hope to live is not a prerequisite for saying this prayer. The Shulkhan Arukh, Code of Jewish Law, reminds the go-sess
that saying Vidui does not bring on death and it does not preclude any hope of recovery. Vidui provides a platform from which
to say goodbye, to ask forgiveness, and to ease fears.
The words said, from the prayer book or from the heart, make death a holy moment.
Sephardic Jews bid leave before the community and gather a minyan, a quorum of ten people, before saying the Vidui.
At the Time of Death – Then and Now
And then the moment has come.
Customary care for the deceased defines an honorable way to shift into automatic action. Tradition acknowledges the numbness that comes
with a loss and lists a host of things to do before burial.
Tenderly, the Chevrah Kaddisha would attend to the body. Eyes would be closed, and the mouth would be shut and prevented form
opening. Limbs would be straightened. A cloth would be draped over the body. The body would be positioned so that the feet would face the
door. A candle would be placed in the room and lit. A member of the Chevra Kaddisha or the family would remain beside the body at
all times, a final vigil.
If the death occurred anywhere outside of a hospital, now is the time to call the doctor and the police. Calls should also be placed to the
funeral home and the rabbi.
A Blessing for A Loss
It is perhaps the hardest blessing to say and many Jews choose not to say this blessing at all. At a moment of loss and upon
hearing the news, God is remembered as the True Judge whose judgment is ultimately righteous.
The traditional text:
Barukh Ah-ta Adonai Elohaynu Melekh HaOlam Dayan HaEmet, Blessed are you God, ruler of
the world, the righteous judge
This blessing is spoken by those most affected by the loss: children, parents, spouses and siblings. Those
who hear of or witness a death may choose to make this blessing.
Mourning rituals in Judaism are extensive. Ritualized mourning has several purposes: it shows respect for the dead, comforts those left behind, helps prevent excessive mourning, and eventually helps the bereaved to return to normal life. Mourning is observed for 30 days after burial, very intensely so in the first seven days. Regular remembrances are performed in the years following the death.
Upon first hearing of the death of a close relative (parent, child, sibling or spouse), grief is traditionally expressed by tearing (keriyah) one's clothing.
The bereaved will wear the torn clothing through the first seven days of mourning. The relative then recites a blessing describing God as the true Judge.
During the period between death and burial (aninut), the primary responsibility of mourners is to care for the dead and prepare the body for burial. This duty takes precedence over all other commandments. The family is left alone to grieve during aninut; calls or visits should not be made during this time.
After the burial, a relative or friend prepares the "meal of condolence," which traditionally consists of eggs (symbolizing life) and bread. This meal is for family only, but visitors may come to offer condolences afterwards.
The family then enters a seven-day period of intense mourning
Mourners sit on low stools or the floor instead of chairs, do not wear leather shoes, shave or cut their hair, wear cosmetics, work, bathe, have sex, put on fresh clothing, or study Torah (except Torah related to mourning and grief). They wear the clothes they tore when they learned of the death or at the funeral. Mirrors in the house are covered. Prayer services are held where the shiva is held, with friends, neighbors and relatives making up the minyan.
Shiva is followed by schloshim ("thirty"), which lasts until the 30th day after burial. During this period, the bereaved do not attend parties or celebrations, do not shave or cut their hair, and do not listen to music.
The final period of formal mourning, avelut, lasts for 12 months from burial and is observed only for a parent. During avelut, mourners do not go to parties, the theater or concerts. The son of the deceased recites the Kaddish prayer every day for 11 months. (Why not 12? Traditionally, the soul must purify itself before going to the world to come, which takes up to 12 months for the most evil.
To recite the Kaddish for 12 months could imply the parent was the type that would need that long, so rabbinical authority set the limit at 11 months.)
Interestingly, the mourner's Kaddish does not mention death. Rather, it praises God and asks for the establishment of God's kingdom. Its purpose is to reaffirm the faith of one who has lost a parent, a time when one is especially vulnerable to turning away from God. This in turn honors the deceased, since it demonstrates he or she has raised a child with faith that is strong enough to endure the death of a loved one.
After the first year, the anniversary of death (yahrzeit) is remembered annually at the synagogue. The son recites the Mourner's Kaddish and makes the aliyah, and a candle is lit that burns for 24 hours.
Grief is a journey; a most-difficult, heart-wrenching, gut-churning journey. It's not a place you would
ask to go, but everyone who has ever loved someone will make this journey at some point in their life.
There is no preparation for this journey. We all enter into it the first time completely unprepared emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Even when
we've spent months or years watching a loved one's health deteriorate and tell ourselves to believe we are ready for the finality of their death ... we're not.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of grief.
They are all normal responses to loss and most ultimately experience all five during the
first 18 months to two years after the loss. Counseling, either one on one or in group settings are encouraged during the first two years of loss. Most Hospices
offer bereavement groups.
The stages are:
- Denial — "I feel fine."; "This can't be
happening, not to me."
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that
will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a
defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage. Kubler Ross recommends that family members and health professionals not prolong denial by
distorting the truth about the person's condition. In doing so, they prevent the dying person from adjusting to impending death and hinder necessary
arrangements, for social supports, for bringing closure, and for making decisions about medical interventions.
- Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced
feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close
to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.
- Bargaining — "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher
power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more
time..." People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be friends?.." when facing a break-up.
Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.
- Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die
soon so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"
During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors
and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to
attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the
dress rehearsal for the 'aftermath'. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It's natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when
going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation.
- Acceptance — "It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well
prepare for it."
In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the
person's situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of
dealing with the grief.
Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton hosts "Camp Good Grief" specifically designed for children up to 15 years of age, who have recently
experienced a loss of a parent, or grandparent. weekend sessions are two to three times a year.
During the first 18 months:
Take it one day at a time. Spend more quality time with your family members, they too grieve the loss, albeit differently then you do. Pray-Talk,
Share, Cry, take out the family photo albums.
Find a pad of paper, a blank journal, or simply a notebook and a pen you love to use - something that writes smoothly and effortlessly. Take time
and write a letter to the loved one who has died, tell them all that you love and appreciate about your experience of them sharing all the positive memories you
What you'll learn from this exercise is the recognition of your resiliency and the gift the person was in your life - you are strong and you will
survive this latest loss.
Read The Bible, and spiritual books - there are many publications written by contemporary rabbis on the journey of the soul and death and dying and
the healing process according to a Jewish perspective.
progress in your healing, begin a body/spirit practice such as Tai-Chi, Yoga, Meditation. Take up a hobby, stay in contact with good friends. Exercise eat
healthy foods and take vitamins for your immune system.
Embrace the process, don't resist it. You will discover that sorrow moves into joy and love will keep your memories alive forever.
Music: Shalom Katz - El Moleh Rachamim for those who perished in Shoah
The custom of placing a monument over the grave of a departed person is a very ancient Jewish tradition. The Book of Genesis, for example,
records that Jacob erected a tombstone over the grave of his wife Rachel. From Biblical times onward, wherever Jewish communities have existed, Jews have continued
this practice of erecting a memorial in honor of their deceased.
The tombstone is erected to indicate clearly where a person is buried, so that family and friends may visit the gravesite. It is also a way of remembering and
honoring the memory of the person who has died.
Today, we refer to the ceremony of formally consecrating a tombstone as an "unveiling". While this ceremony has no origin in pre-modern Jewish life, this has
become an acceptable practice today.
An unveiling takes place during the first year after death. There are no strict guidelines for the timing of an unveiling, and, while families may choose a date
at any time after the end of the Shiva, it has become a contemporary practice to schedule this ceremony for some time between the end of Shloshim, the thirty day
period of intensive mourning, and the first Yahrzeit, the anniversary of a death.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNCTION OF THE UNVEILING
The unveiling is a mourning ritual which serves a very specific function in the healing process of the bereaved. It is not simply a perfunctory ritual, but
rather, like the funeral, Shiva, Shloshim and reciting Kaddish, the unveiling provides mourners with the opportunity for emotional and psychological healing.
The physical act of erecting and unveiling a monument allows for the expression of the sad and painful emotions of grief. Family members gather together, often
from cities which are miles apart, and continue their mourning as a family, lending each other comfort and support in dealing with their grief.
For individuals who were not able to attend the funeral or Shiva, the unveiling ritual provides yet another opportunity to grieve and to acknowledge one's loss.
Although painful, this realistic experience of grief can, over time, be very healing for mourners.
During the unveiling of a monument, as one sees the name of a beloved family member etched in stone, there is a stark realization of the finality of death. The
impact can be quite jarring to some, and yet, at the same time, can provide a further opportunity to accept the reality of the loss. Thus, the unveiling ritual
allows mourners to face death and loss realistically, and to affirm a commitment to life and to living.
The unveiling also allows the bereaved family members to honor and to recall the memory of their departed. It is a chance to continue to reflect upon the
significance of that person's life, his or her accomplishments, and the people who were important. In a sense, through the unveiling, the memory of a person's life
is etched permanently into the collective memory of the Jewish community.
Generate a a free online Yarzheit Calendar courtesy of Tzedakah House