Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jewish burial through the ages

HAARETZ: The history of Jewish burial rites. Jews have been dying ever since there were Jews, but how they are buried has vastly changed through the millennia. (Elon Gilad). Excerpt:
Ancient burial caves

From the archaeological record, we know that the burial practices of the earliest Jews, the Israelites and the Judahites (who would unite into the people called yehudim, or the Jews), usually interred their dead in "family caves" located outside the settlement.

These "family caves" were usually created by expanding naturally-occurring tunnels in the chalky foothills of the region.

The burial rite consisted of two parts. First the body would be brought into an outer room and laid on the floor, or in special slots in the wall. Then later, perhaps a year later, the family would return to the burial cave, collect the bare bones and add them to a pile of bones left by previous generations in an inner sanctum.

This ancient custom continued even after the invasion of their kingdoms in the eighth and sixth centuries BCE, persisted during and after the exile, throughout during the Second Temple period – lasting, in fact, until the Middle Ages. During those millennia, though, some innovations did develop.