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Chevra kadisha

July 16, 2006

It used to startle her, how cold an uninhabited body is.

But she can’t help the wave of tenderness that comes when she passes a warm washcloth over breast and belly. Everyone succumbs to the impulse to whisper a word of comfort as the stream of water pours.

Sand makes it real. These eyes won’t open again, not here.

Wrapped in white, the body looks smaller. She’s always startled that it isn’t weightless when they lift it and place it in its nest of wood curls, like a precious etrog with a long way to travel before the holiday comes.

by Rachel Barenblat of Velveteen Rabbi

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  1. July 16, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    I love the physicality of these images, the very visceral sense of a untentented body not being something to shun or pump full of poisons (as in modern Christian practice), but something to lay gently away.

  2. July 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm


  3. July 17, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    This piece was really hard for me to read right now, but beautiful and powerful – and true.

  4. July 17, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    (I meant “untenanted,” of course, but I actually sort of like “untentented” – shades of the tabernacle and that.)

  5. qB
    July 19, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    This is so moving. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  6. July 23, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you for your comments, all.

    And Beth, I apologize for not thinking clearly about how my submission might be painful to read. Thank you for making me mindful.

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