After a death in the family
The first thing that most people do after a death in the family has occurred is to contact a funeral home in order to transfer the body and schedule the time of the funeral. If they don't already have funeral plots purchased, often the next act is to contact a cemetery to purchase a plot.
Jewish families that are affiliated with a synagogue would never consider planning a joyous occasion, (a Simcha), without first talking to a Rabbi. The spiritual journey that we call death should require the same guidance as a Bar Mitzva, wedding or Bris.
The simple reality of the modern Jewish experience is that quite often it is only after the funeral arrangements have been finalized, that a Rabbi is contacted to perform the funeral service. Unless the Rabbi is involved with the family as members of his congregation, or is willing to intercede after the contracts are signed, the time honored Jewish rituals of burial are not necessarily included.
The average individual is not touched by the tragic experience of death on a regular basis. In America our concepts of death and burial are most likely to be influenced by the mass media, which of course is not representative of the Jewish traditional concept of honoring the dead, (Koved-HaMais). This is why a consultation with a Rabbi is so imperative in the observation of Jewish burial traditions.
Our Jewish traditions have preserved us throughout our history; let us not forget the importance of Rabbinical guidance and Jewish traditions especially at the time of our greatest need.
The following is an overview of our spiritual heritage in the Mitzvah of Koved-HaMais.
1. Timely Burial: Not unnecessarily delaying the interment.
2. Shomer: An attending reader of Psalms so the deceased is never left alone.
3. Tahara and Shrouding: Preparation in accordance to Torah by a Chevra Kadisha.
4. Wooden Casket: Of natural construction.
5. Ground Interment: Burial in the sanctified environs of a Jewish Cemetery
6. Observing Shiva and the Jewish Morning Traditions.