Friday, November 13, 2015

The Taxonomy of the Jewish Casket

I read a lot about the history of Jewish burial traditions but that desktop research felt rather abstract. Stepping next to the casket assembly line made my exploration immediately more tangible, more matter of fact. I wondered how many future casket owners were unaware at this very moment that their caskets were being built right then, in front of my eyes. I was immediately carried away by the details. And when it comes to Jewish caskets, the devil is indeed in the details: According to Jewish law, a casket must be made of wood — it must be completely free of metal. This really complicates the production process, and that’s where metal detectors come in handy. What’s more, every Jewish casket has holes in the bottom so that the earth can come through the wood. With the wood comes the earth, and with the earth comes the ultimate decay of the body. A lot of Jewish burial traditions, I learned, are designed to help us come to terms with mortality in ways that purposefully avoid consumerism. So why does New England Caskets produce so many beautiful caskets that often cost several thousand dollars? Apparently, there is a market for that.
The Assimilation of Jewish Caskets

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