Rabbi Ilyse on a light blue background, banner reads The Word from the DJC.

Rabbi, how can I be sure we’ll get a minyan?

Imagine the following scenario:

A rabbi is officiating at a funeral for a 75 year old person. Only she and the funeral home director will be present. The mourners – a spouse and adult children – are not going to be there. “It’s too much for us,” they say. The rabbi doesn’t know the family and wonders how to move forward with the funeral with just the two of them present. 

What would you do in this situation? 

What should you do in this situation? 

What does Jewish tradition say about how the rabbi and funeral director should move forward? Should they carry on with a funeral with all of the rites and rituals? Is it permissible to hold a funeral with (basically) no one there, with no family members or friends present?

The answer is YES. Being present for a deceased person and ensuring that they receive the same kavod (respect) as any other Jew is held as a priority. Everyone deserves a proper burial, no matter who, or how many people, are there. In this case, the rabbi and funeral home director performed the ultimate mitzvah. They shoveled earth onto the casket; they recited kaddish together. They said the deceased person’s name aloud. They noted a life lived and ended. Through their acts of chesed (loving kindness), they acted as shlichim (agents or representatives) – and in doing so fulfilled a beautiful, sad mitzvah

I recently met with some congregants to explore the role of our DJC community in fulfilling the mitzvot of Kavod HaMet (Honouring the Dead) and Nichum Aveilim (Comforting Mourners). What happens when a deceased DJC member has no (nearby) family? Or if the DJC mourner has no (nearby) family? How can we ensure that a funeral is well-attended and that the shiva house is never empty? What can be done to secure a minyan for shiva services?

I am grateful that these conversations are actively happening and that our community is critically thinking about how we can continue to rise to the occasion to be supportive of one another. Just as we offer support through our Chesed Committee (many thanks to Simmy Zaret as lead) and our Shiva Minyan crew (many thanks to Alan Gotlib as lead), it will only serve us well to name and organize additional needs to lend hands, shoulders, voices, and hugs to our DJC community. 

Stay tuned for more information coming soon about how you can fulfill these – and other – mitzvot as a DJC member.

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