Podcast: Daniel Troy on ”The Burial Society”

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Chapter 1: Death, Dignity, and the Chevra Kadisha

Chapter 2: The Work of the Burial Society

Chapter 3: True Kindness

Chapter 4: Can Dying Teach Us How to Live?

Death is an uncomfortable topic. It has deprived us of people we love, and we know that, ultimately, it is the one fate that awaits us all. But Jewish ritual and Jewish tradition embody a set of ideas about life, death, love, and mourning that help us confront our mortality with equanimity. For all the sorrow we feel with the loss of a beloved friend or family member, death holds lessons for life.

In the Jewish community, few confront the realities of death more directly, and more frequently, than the members of the hevra kadisha—the volunteer society that prepares the bodies of the deceased for burial. Judaism views this this ritual preparation as holy work, an act true kindness that can never be repaid.

In this podcast, Daniel Troy joins Jonathan Silver for a conversation about his time serving on his community’s hevra kadisha. Using Troy’s 1992 Commentary essay, “The Burial Society,” as their roadmap, Silver and Troy have a searching discussion about life, death, and honoring the truth of Genesis that all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. As they explore the exacting rituals governing the preparation of the departed, Troy and Silver help us gain a greater appreciation of how confronting the realities of death can help us learn how best to live our lives.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.

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