The following is Kavod v’Nichum’s recommended reading for Chevrot Kadisha and the wider community.
FOR CHEVROT KADISHA
Mourning and Mitzvah: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing
by Rabbi Anne Brener, MAJCS, MA, LCSW
Chesed Shel Emet: The Truest Act of Kindness details the ritual of preparing a body for burial. The 3rd edition adds a liturgical understanding of the prayers that are said while performing a taharah. Too often, those who attend Jewish funerals, both as mourners and comforters, are not fully familiar with our traditions, practices and prayers. Nichum Aveilim provides guidance and insight, resulting in greater understanding, familiarity and awareness. Included in the booklet are explanations of burial, funeral, and shiva rituals, as well as Hebrew prayers and texts, with translations and transliterations
Rabbi Ariel Stone has been Shir Tikvah’s spiritual leader since the congregation’s founding in 2002. A caring and vibrant leader, she is an exceptionally knowledgeable teacher of Torah and a recognized scholar of Jewish mysticism. Rabbi Stone is also currently the chair of Hesed Shel Emet (the Oregon Jewish Indigent Burial Society), Rabbinic mentor for TischPDX and Convener of Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance. She serves as adjunct faculty with the Judaic Studies department at Portland State University. Dying is not a moment at the end of life, but instead a path lined with opportunities to reflect, explore, and contemplate. In her insightful guidebook on the meaning of death, The Alef-Bet of Death Dying as a Jew, Rabbi Ariel Stone shares spiritual commentary, Jewish stories, and other writings that provide information and inspiration about the process of death as seen through the prism of Jewish learning and culture. In her other book, Because All Is One, Rabbi Stone reveals within the teachings of Jewish mysticism a grounding for the scattered parts of modern human identity. She has created a guide for individual tikkun, self-repair, out of the ancient Jewish doctrine of the sefirot.
Reb Simcha Raphael is the founder of the Da’at Institute for Death Awareness, Advocacy and Training. He sells books and music on his website. He is available for adult education and professional development programs on death awareness education, bereavement counseling skills, rituals of death and mourning, and the spirituality of afterlife, near-death experiences, and reincarnation. He also offers bereavement counseling in person or by video conferencing. His groundbreaking Jewish Views of the Afterlife is now available in a 25-year anniversary edition. His latest book was co-authored with Rabbi David Levin and Rabbi Dayle Friedman. Jewish End-of-Life Care in a Virtual Age: Our Traditions Reimagined is a rich collection of resources for clergy, spiritual caregivers, helping professionals, and families confronting death and mourning in unprecedented times. It offers historical insight on the evolution of Jewish death rituals in times of crisis; it provides guidelines for online spiritual care and death rituals; outlines approaches to bioethical dilemmas in a time of scarce medical resources; and features an appendix of innovative new end-of-life liturgies.
This book guides the mourner toward meaning and transformation. Using the ancient road map as a template, Divrei Nichum explores this terrain with modern eyes. The language is current, accessible, honest. While exploring the themes associated with loss primarily from a Jewish perspective, Divrei Nichum is intended to reach all who grieve the loss of loved ones. The poems in this collection affirm there is only one essential truth that binds every living creature–the cycle of birth and death. We are birthed into existence, we live for some time on Earth, and then we die, leaving this world. While we all share this fundamental truth, navigating the terrain of loss can be overwhelming, frightening, alienating. These poems attempt to connect us all through the pain of loss and the mystery of death.
Mr. Light is a senior instructor and Staff for the Gamliel Institute, on the Board of Directors for Kavod v’Nichum, and has published seven widely respected books, four of which are on Jewish rituals and practices relating to death and dying. His acclaimed Jewish Rites of Death: Stories of Beauty and Transformation won a 2016 Nautilus Book Award. His widely used taharah manual, To Midwife a Soul, has been revised to include new liturgies in addition to the established liturgy based on Ma’avar Yabbok. These include liturgy for Taharah Ruchanit – when we must honor the dead but do not have or cannot be close to their body, and non-binary liturgy to support all gender identities. Chevrot wishing to purchase multiple copies of Mr. Light’s books get them at printing costs plus shipping; contact the author for details. Mr. Light’s latest book, Sebastian, is an intriguing fable (part ethical will, part autobiography, part novella) about spiritual awakening, an inspiring work that is especially salient today.
This classic Taharah Manual is a detailed instruction as to how a taharah is performed and some of the reasons why these customs are observed. The manual also includes related issues to availus learned from Hagaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein.
Health and Safety Precautions for Taharah: A guide to understanding potential health risks and injuries while performing the holy work of the Chevrah Kadisha by provides a layperson’s overview of potential health risks and injuries related to the sacred task of washing and dressing the meit/ah (the deceased). The authors include health, occupational safety, and Jewish professionals with over 100 year of experience doing taharot and working to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Their recommendations are grounded in public health, workplace safety, and a commitment to respecting Jewish ritual.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, named in 2016 by the Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, was ordained by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal as a rabbi in 2011 and as a mashpi’ah ruchanit (spiritual director) in 2012. She is the author of eight books and many articles and publications. Beside Still Waters is a bilingual volume to support the journey of healing, loss, grief, comfort and renewal in both individual and communal contexts. Beside Still Waters offers materials for before death, stages of mourning and grief, remembrance and much more. It is a curated volume with traditional and modern liturgies, resonant new translations, evocative poetry and readings, and full transliteration. It also offers prayers for a variety of spiritually difficult circumstances (miscarriage, stillbirth, suicide, when there is no grave to visit, mourning an abusive relationship) too often overlooked in the journey of memory and transformation. It features the work of some 40 contributors from across the breadth of Jewish life.
Even the strongest among us can get stuck in the grief process, unable to heal and move forward. In And God Created Hope Rabbi Mel Glazer, z”l — a highly regarded and experienced grief-recovery counselor — gives comforting form to a crucial insight: That the messages of the Old Testament are a source of hope for even the most grieving among us. Drawing directly from the key books of the Tanach, Glazer marshals, in a completely nondenominational way, their most profound, age-old themes to the very hard work of moving through and beyond grief — and into a life of hope and fulfillment. Among the themes and early Biblical stories Glazer uses as his jumping-off point to explore the process of grief recovery are: Bargaining (from Jonah), shock and anger (from Leviticus), fear (from Exodus), wandering (from Numbers), faith and strength (from Job), forgiveness (from Genesis), joy (from Proverbs), growth (from Psalms), legacy (from Deuteronomy), creating a new family (from Ruth), grief without death (from Song of Songs), and tragedy (from Lamentations).
The extraordinary story of a Minneapolis congregation who broke the mold of American death practices, returning instead to traditional Jewish practices. This story and the resulting book helped propel a national revitalization and rebirth of Jewish practices around the end of life. A Plain Pine Box: A Return to Simple Jewish Funerals and Eternal Traditions is a powerful story of a cornerstone event in the history of Jewish death practice in America.
Many fond memories are made by encircling in Jewish tradition – beneath a ḥuppah (wedding canopy) during wedding rituals, around a Torah with a lulav and etrog on Sukkot, dancing with a Torah on Simḥat Torah, or simply being in community while such rituals are happening. Each of these are joyful moments in Jewish life. Seven Sacred Circles deciphers a meaningful and potent final act of honor. Seder Ha-Hakafot (the order of encircling) is taken from the first and most respected Hebrew book on end-of-life care – Sefer Maavar Yabbok – authored by Rabbi Aharon Berekhiah z”l in 1626. This book includes two versions of Hebrew text – one adapted for use by women as well as the original text written for men. In addition, the book includes English translation and transliteration for both versions. Seven Sacred Circles begins with step-by-step explanation of the Kabbalah behind the ritual. First, the number seven is contextualized from both secular and Jewish perspectives. Then, a light is shined on hakafot – sacred circling with intentions for each orbit. Next, the structure and movement are illuminated through a sacred poem. Finally, the powerful liturgy for seven hakafot is presented. The structure outlined in this book is useful every time a ritual of seven hakafot is done. The methodology is therefore applicable beyond this particular ritual. Shahareet for Weekdays uniquely offers layers of meditative kabbalah methods based on translated from Siddur Oz haT’fillah and other sources into English for the first time. It offers a complete traditional liturgy with heart opening translations. If you seek to cultivate depth and nuance in your prayer practice, this siddur is for you. This is as an invitation to cultivate your personal prayer practice.
Rabbi Me’irah Iliinsky, MSW, was a psychotherapist before going to rabbinical school. She is one of the Jewish educators at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and serves as the Rabbi at Rhoda Goldman Plaza Assisted Living Center. Rabbi Me’irah was part of the first graduating class of the Gamliel Insitute in 2015, and has presented at many conferences over the years. She is also an artist, making visual portals to sacred texts. Her artwork can be seen in paintings, prints, educational presentations, books and online videos. Mapping the Journey: The Mourner and the Soul is a visual map of our journeying – as a mourner after a death, and the accompanying travels of the soul during the same period – a powerful and beautiful understanding of living and dying.
Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences of all sizes for 16 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth, and acceptance that comes with embracing life challenges – those expected and unexpected. She has two books available that are directly related to her talks at the conference:
- Living with Loss, One Day at a Time – 365 inspiring ideas in support of grief and loss
- Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time – What to do with yours or a loved one’s possessions
David Levin is a reform rabbi ordained from the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion (NY). David serves the community of Greater Philadelphia. He also devotes his time to special projects including Jewish Sacred Aging, teaching and free speech issues on the college campus. David worked with the Union for Reform Judaism in the Congregational Network as a Rabbinical Director serving the East Coast congregations. He also had the honor of working at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, PA. David Levin is a Fellow with Rabbis Without Borders, an interdenominational rabbinic group affiliated with CLAL. His latest book was co-authored with Reb Simcha Raphael and Rabbi Dayle Friedman. Jewish End-of-Life Care in a Virtual Age: Our Traditions Reimagined is a rich collection of resources for clergy, spiritual caregivers, helping professionals, and families confronting death and mourning in unprecedented times. It offers historical insight on the evolution of Jewish death rituals in times of crisis; it provides guidelines for online spiritual care and death rituals; outlines approaches to bioethical dilemmas in a time of scarce medical resources; and features an appendix of innovative new end-of-life liturgies.