Why Am I not supposed to leave the body of a Jewish person unattended?

One of my jobs as a junior doctor includes certifying deaths and filling in death certificates.

In my handy guide, it says the bodies of Jewish people should not be left unattended, and the bodies of Sikhs should not be moved. Since this is Northern Ireland and there are less than 50 Jewish people in the Province, and not that many Sikhs, it is going to be easier to ask the Dope. I’m happy enough to sit with someone or not to move someone, I’d just like to know why so I can explain it to nursing staff or my seniors.

Oh, and for any UK dopers who aren’t aware, the doctor who fills in the part of the cremation form that says you won’t blow up the crematorium with a pacemaker gets £65.

I don’t know about being unattended, I just know they have to be buried very shortly after death. And there’s a tradition of sitting shiva around the body in the time before it’s buried, so perhapes that comes into play.

I don’t think you can come up with another reason other than attending the corpse is respectful, burying the body fast is a good idea, and GOD SAID SO.

This page on Religion Facts might be helpful until our Jewish Dopers can pop in and explain a little bit more.

Basically, the body is attended as a sign of respect. Shiva is after the funeral, and not with the body, from what I’ve been told.

What does it cost when you get it wrong :smack:


IANA religious person, so take everything I sat with a grain of salt.
AFAIK, as a rule, Jewish laws don’t come with explanations – you are just required to follow the law. However, here is what I found on Hebrew sites regarding burial laws.
The basic idea is to maintain the dead person’s dignity.
The Jewish tradition declares that the dead should not be left alone, and that at one person should stay with him until burial while saying verses from Psalms in order to help the soul reach Heaven.

think it’s a bit more, but not a lot… 130 at the last census


In short, the reason is out of respect for the dead. As a sign of respect, someone remains with him/her at all times until the burial. It is also customary to have someone reciting Psalms near the casket. The recital of Psalms is not necessary for the person to get into Heaven - she or he will be judged on their own merits.

Almost every Jewish community has a group of people (commonly called the Chevra Kadish - the holy society) that handles tasks relating to the handling of the body from death until burial.

Zev Steinhardt