The notion that the soul survives for three days after death appears to have originated in the Kabbalah books, particularly the Zohar. Jews believe that a person's body should be buried as soon as possible after death, ideally the same day but no more than three days later. Jewish law forbids embalming and cremation. The soul is thought to continue functioning after death until the time for it to be reunited with the body arrives.
In Judaism, there is no such thing as an eternal soul. Rather, God gives each person a soul at birth and keeps it alive until after they die. After someone dies, their soul enters into a temporary state of unconsciousness until God decides when it will be reunited with the body. During this time, the soul is not aware of what happens to the body.
For example, if a person dies without being baptized by a rabbi or religious leader, their soul will go to hell unless someone else will pray for them. After three days, the soul will be released if it was written in a Torah scroll or remained in good standing with other Jews. Otherwise, it will remain in hell.
After someone dies, their closest family members usually choose a burial site near their home or place of business. Once the body is disposed of, the soul begins its journey toward heaven or hell. The soul is judged at the end of three days based on how well it lived its life.
In most cases, the time between death and burial is short. A Jewish burial is customarily performed within 24 hours following death. This is in conformity with the Torah, the holy Jewish text, which states, "You should bury him on the same day." The Talmud goes on to say that one may not delay the burial for more than three days.
The Jewish law also requires that there be at least two witnesses present during the burial. In addition, an object used in religious ceremonies such as a mezuzah must be placed on the doorpost near where the body is laid out.
These practices are in accordance with Biblical commandments. The Bible states, "Honor your father and your mother, thus ensuring an afterlife for them and providing guidance for you while they are alive..." (Exodus 20:12). It also tells us, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving kindness is better than silver or gold." (Prov. 22:1).
Finally, the Bible instructs us to "Do not be like those who lie in wait for their own blood; whose money they spend on themselves, never caring what happens to their victims." (Psalm 55:14). An evil person cannot go to heaven because there is no room for them there.
As a result, Jewish law requires that the deceased be buried within 24 hours after their death. The theological notion underpinning this commandment is that man, created in the image of God, ought to be treated with the utmost respect. Since burial ensures that our physical body is kept among the living rather than left for the animals, it is regarded as a fundamental right and responsibility.
Jewish law also requires that certain mourners attend the burial. These include:
• The father or mother of the dead person. They are required by law to take part in the burial. If the deceased had no father or mother, close relatives will have to do instead.
• Two other men who were not close relations of the deceased but who were respected members of the community. They are called "the third set of witnesses."
• A ministering angel at the time of burial and during the first two days of the mourning period. Angels do not have human feelings but they are an important part of Judaism and therefore deserve recognition during important ceremonies like funerals.
• At least one religious leader should be present at the time of burial. This could be either a rabbi or a priestly figure such as a cantor or shofar-blower. In modern times, many Jews prefer having a secular clergy member present during these rites.
This criterion was set with both a positive and a negative command. "Thou shalt undoubtedly bury him on the same day," it said positively. In the negative, it stated, "His body shall not remain all night" (Deuteronomy 21:23). Although exceptions may exist for cases where this rule would cause a problem or be difficult to implement, in general this is how the law wants things done.
In ancient times, people didn't know how long ago someone died. So the Torah provided a limit of 24 hours for everyone's burial. Today, we know that people can live for many hours after they die so there is no need for such a short limit. But since the Torah limit is absolute, all cases having to do with death must be treated in accordance with it.
For example, if one person in the family dies and another one still lives, then the dead person must be buried first because he is less important than the living one. Or perhaps there are no funds available to pay for a private funeral director or cemetery plot. In this case, a religious official will perform the burial. These are just some of the many situations that could arise when following the Torah limit would be impractical or impossible. But even in these cases, the law's requirement that the body be buried within 24 hours after death remains in effect.
This is in conformity with the Torah, the holy Jewish text, which states, "You must bury him on the same day... His body should not be left there all night." Funerals are rarely held this rapidly today, outside of Orthodox groups. When possible, the body is taken to a cemetery as soon as possible after death.
The funeral service begins with the chanting of Psalms. A rabbi or other Jewish leader reads from the Book of Leviticus, the second book of the Bible. This is followed by the reading of the deceased's will or inheritance instructions. The remains are then washed and dressed in their best clothes for viewing by relatives and friends. A light meal may be served before the burial takes place.
Jewish funerals include many elements found in traditional Christian funerals. They also differ significantly from Christian funerals in some important ways. Christians believe that after death, the soul goes to heaven or hell based on how they lived their lives on earth. Jews do not believe in an afterlife, so dying without having accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his people's Messiah is considered sin and leads to judgment and eternity in hell. However, through the process of mitzvahs (good deeds), one can earn a place in "Olam Haba" (the World to Come), a paradise where everyone will receive their own portion of G-d's blessings.