Old is New
Sacred Waters' specialists bring peace to the dying, and empowerment and comfort to those who mourn, by putting Judaism's rich trove of end-of-life practices into their hands.
Sacred Waters (Mayim Kedoshim in Hebrew) is a modern take on a chevra kaddishah, or Jewish burial society. For centuries, Jewish families gathered at home to care for a loved one as they transitioned from this world. Their local chevra was there at every step, to pray with them; to provide the customary bathing ceremony after death (taharah) and the guarding of the loved one (shomer); to lead the family to the cemetery for the funeral; and to help with the shiva, or mourning rites.
Sacred Waters works with today's families to provide a similar spectrum of care. We are Jewish hospice chaplains, medical and death care professionals, drawn together by our love of Jewish ritual and our wish to serve the unaffiliated Jewish community at end-of life. We make these rituals available to families, in the home as well as in mortuaries, and we accommodate what families need to make the rituals their own. We are committed to making the time of a home death meaningful and healing for the family, and deeply honoring of the deceased, in a truly Jewish way.
Taharah is essentially a symbolic mikvah dip for the deceased, prior to dressing them for burial. The decedent is given a sponge bath, and then water is poured over the body in an ablution believed to free them of all uncleanlinesses of this world. The act is considered Judaism's highest mitzvah, or sacred duty, because it is something essential, yet no one can do it for themselves, and those who perform it for another will never hear a "thank you."
Interest in both receiving and participating in taharah is on the rise among Jews of all backgrounds. Reasons include its powerful imagery, its link to Jewish history, and the opportunities it provides to fulfill a sacred duty, express love and begin healing.
Taharah honors the miracle of the human body, and the soul that is believed to linger nearby until the funeral. Through the ritual’s metaphor-rich liturgy, both body and soul are prepared to meet the Holy One of Blessing in the Temple on High.
Watch this video to learn more about the taharah ritual.
Click below for your free copy of
Jewish Ritual Wishes at End of Life,
a booklet designed to augment other end-of-life planning documents with information about the Jewish rituals mentioned on this Web site. Print it out as a booklet on 8.5x11 paper.