Sarit Benzaquen’s Essay Wins Prize at JCGC’s Loveland Cemetery Dedication
JCGC asked high school students to participate in the dedication of its new community cemetery by submitting a paper on the importance of cemeteries in Judaism and was especially pleased to receive the following essay from Sarit Benzaquen, a tenth grader at Atara High School. It captures one of the central values in Jewish tradition, kavod hamet, or the care and dignity of the dead. Sarit won a cash award for her submission.
Cemeteries are an essential part of Jewish communities. It does not matter what part of the world one is in, the respect for the deceased and the rituals in a Jewish burial are always the same. When a body does not have a correct burial it is heartbreaking. In the concentration camps, millions of Jews were killed and thrown into pits. After the war, people wanted to give the deceased proper burials but many bodies were never found. The way the cemetery is set up ensures the proper respect and safety of the bodies.
The cemetery ground must be well kept as comfort to the families of the deceased. This reassures them that their loved ones are resting in peace and they can visit them at any time. When we exit a burial ground we must wash our hands to clean off “spiritual impurities.” Outside of the holy land, one is buried in a casket. In Israel, one is wrapped in a Talit (religious garment) and buried without a casket by reason of being in direct contact with the sacred land.
Being involved in the tahara (purifying) of the corpse is one of the greatest deeds one can do. Ensuring that the corpse is clean and prepared for burial is very important. This mitzvah (commandment) is special since one must be very selfless. Many times when one does a kind deed for another person they receive something in return: at times it is tangible and at times not. With this mitzvah one does not receive anything tangible since they are assisting someone who is helpless and can never give back. Though there is no reward in this world, the spiritual reward in the next world is immense.
Tourism of cemeteries is very common. Many people visit the graves of fallen soldiers and of great leaders. An example is Mount Herzl, a burial ground in Israel for fallen soldiers.