”A minute's worth of repentance and good deeds in this life is better than a whole life in the next world". Pirké. Avot 4:17

General information:

Judaism impels one to lead an earthly life full of good deeds, as these are the only actions that remain at death.

The idea of an afterworld (Olam-Ha-Ba) is accepted. This afterworld is divided between a paradise (Gan Edén) and a hell (Gehina).

When a person dies the soul leaves the body, but for the next eleven months both entities are linked until the body disintegrates. This time constitutes a transition period after which the pious go to paradise and the perverse to hell.

Now most Jews reject the idea that Gan Edén and Gehina literally exist. The basic beliefs of Judaism today are centered on the Messiah's arrival, when a perfect world will be attained and when the pious will be resurrected.

Men will have to answer to God for the legitimate pleasures that they denied themselves in life. Life, not death, is the greatest human experience.


Caring for the body and preparing the burial are religious tasks of a holy nature. Most communities normally organize a 'jevrá kadishá', or holy society, composed of pious members of the community.

The "jevrá" is responsible for getting a doctor to certify the death and for ensuring someone stays with the body until burial.

In accordance with biblical precepts, the body must be buried as quickly as possible.

Funerals should always be simple so as not to embarrass those who cannot afford ostentatious ceremonies.

Flowers and music should not be present in the funeral as they are signs of happiness.

The coffin should be made of wood, with no adornments. All Jews should be buried in a pocketless, white cotton shroud. 

Cremations are not permitted. 


The first period of mourning, called 'shivá', begins at the end of the funeral. Direct relatives stay in the deceased's home for one week. Jews believe that the deceased's soul does not leave the house for seven days. Consequently, relatives' prayers in the week after death are beneficial.

During this time the relatives sit on benches that are lower than normal. They do not cut their hair or shave and refrain from all pleasurable activity. If possible, they should not go to work.

Three times a day they recite the 'kadish', a Jewish prayer of mourning.

It is also customary to tear an article of clothing, cover mirrors and light candles.

At the end of this first period of mourning a second, called "shloshim", begins. This second period continues until the thirtieth day after burial. During 'shloshim' direct family members are still not permitted to cut their hair, shave or attend parties. The period of mourning finishes with the end of "shloshim".

Children of the deceased have an extended mourning period that continues until eleven months after death.

Most of these customs are suspended in cases of suicide.

Jews are not allowed to extend mourning periods beyond what is stipulated by law.