Judaism embraces life and accepts death as a part of life. In the face of death, we are confronted by powerful emotions and questions for which we have no answers. That is when ritual shows its greatest strength. The centuries of tradition behind our rituals guide us along a path that not only helps us to honor our loved ones, but help us to heal and move forward from pain and loss.
There are many Jewish rituals and traditions involved in deciding on a resting place for yourself or a family member. Why do Jews bury above ground? This ritual is over 3800 years old. Since Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah as a burial place for his wife, Sarah, it has been a tradition for Jews to be laid to rest either in or on hallowed ground. This is in accord with the Biblical and post-Biblical custom of burying the dead in niches cut into the walls of a cave (Genesis 23:9). When Abraham lost his beloved wife Sarah, he owned no land in Israel, and he offered to purchase the Cave of Machpelah. It was in this cave, above ground and not in the field, in which Abraham chose to lay his beloved to rest. Also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Cave of Machpelah’s Hebrew name means “cave of the double tombs,” and refers to the burial of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah, considered the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. The burial of Sarah is the first account of burial in the Bible. Located in the city of Hebron, just outside of Jerusalem, Israel, the Cave of Machpelah is the oldest continuously used intact prayer structure in the world.
According to Rabbi Dan Levin at Temple Beth El, “The Beth El Mausoleum affords us the opportunity to lay our loved ones to rest in keeping with the tradition followed by our original Jewish ancestors.” During their migration through Europe and around the world, Jews adopted outside cultures and began to bury their loved ones underground.
The Beth El Mausoleum infuses this ancient, holy tradition into our modern times and thriving Jewish community. According to the Beth El Mausoleum Director, “We are the only mausoleum on consecrated temple grounds in the United States and Canada; it is not only a beautiful place, but it is also a sacred space.” Just a short walk down the hill from Temple Beth El, the Beth El Mausoleum is a haven in which we can find peace amid understanding the cycle of life and death.