Why Aren't Flowers Sent at a Jewish Funeral?

Although a thoughtful gesture, flowers are often unnecessary for a Jewish funeral.

Although it is common to see flowers at funerals, it is customary for flowers not to be sent to Jewish funerals. There are two reasons for this, one practical and the other symbolic.

1 Practical Consideration

Jewish law demands nearly immediate burial, preferably within 24 hours. At most, Jews are to be buried within three days of death. Traditionally, non-Jews used flowers to offset odor from a decaying body. But, with the requirement of immediate burial in Judaism--many times bodies are not embalmed or viewed--flowers aren't needed for a Jewish funeral.

2 Symbolic Consideration

Jewish tradition teaches equality among men and asks that even at the time of death, no distinction be made between the rich and poor. Any sign of ostentation is discouraged and, therefore, flowers are to be avoided.

3 Jewish Law

Despite the tradition of funerals without flowers, Jewish law doesn't forbid them. So, it might be worthwhile to call the family or rabbi to find out if flowers are acceptable.

4 Appropriate Sympathy

Instead of sending flowers, sympathizers of the bereaved are often encouraged to send donations to a charity. The deceased's family might indicate in an obituary notice a specific charity they would like donations to go to.

5 Removing Flowers

If flowers are sent, the bereaved family may ask the funeral director to donate them to a hospital or nursing home.

Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.