London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Funeral Ceremonies, Fasts, and Customs of the Jews.
THE funeral ceremonies of the Jews are among the things which tend to preserve the distinctness and peculiarity of this people. Sometimes, though now rarely, the nearest relatives of the deceased wear sackcloth (a coarse crape), and throw ashes and dust on their hair, for the term during which the corpse remains unburied, this term being the same as among Christians. When the corpse is carried to the Jews' burial-ground for interment the coffin is frequently opened, and the corpse addressed, in a Hebrew formula, by any relative, friend, or acquaintance who may be present. The words are to the following purport: "If I have done anything that might be offensive— pardon, pardon, pardon." After that the coffin is carried round the burial-ground in a circuit, children chanting the Psalm in its original Hebrew, "a prayer of Moses, the man of God." The passages which the air causes to be most emphatic are these verses:—
The coffin is then carried into a tent, and the funeral prayers, in Hebrew, are read. When it has been lowered into the grave, the relatives, and indeed all the attendants at the interment, fill up the grave, shovelling in the earth. In the Jews' burial-ground are no distinctions, no vaults or provisions for aristocratic sepulture. The very rich and the very poor, the outcast woman and the virtuous and prosperous gentlewoman, "grossly familiar, side by side consume." A Jewish funeral is a matter of high solemnity.
The burial fees are for children, and from to for adults. These fees are not the property of the parties officating, but form a portion of the synagogue funds for general purposes, payment of officers, &c. No fees are charged to the relatives of poor Jews.
fasts are rigidly observed by the Jews, and even by those Jews who are usually indifferent to the observances of their religion. These are the Black Fast, in commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the White Fast, in commemoration of the atonement. On each of those occasions the Jews abstain altogether from food for hours, or from sunset to sunset.