On Sunday morning, April 29, we conducted our first Prayer Book Burial Service at the Springhill Avenue Temple Cemetery at the very back of the cemetery on the right hand side. It was the very first time in my life I had officiated at, or even observed, such a ceremony.
Larry Miller explains, "One cannot judge a book by its cover And one cannot judge another person after they die. Therefore, out of respect to the body of the person or the book that both contained the essence of God, we as Jews bury those that have passed. The Temple currently has a collection of expired books that will be sent to the cemetery for burial. In an effort to teach our children about the cemetery and the rituals of burial, April 29th the Sunday school will travel to the cemetery to help with this burial."
It was primarily attended by the Religious School, but there was also about one dozen non-teacher adults in attendance. We had selected maybe 300 books that were deemed suitable for burial and we decided to put the books out in the hall at the Temple the week before to let people have a chance to take what the wanted to.
Most of the book we buried were UPB Volume 2s, which is the High Holy Day volume of the Union Prayer Book and that was because that although we anticipate having periodic Union Prayer Book Services on Shabbat, it is very hard to imagine having a UPB High Holy Day Service.
In addition to the UPB Volume 2s, there was additionally quite a few copies of the Jewish Publication Society’s Holy Scriptures. Many and actually most of those were taken, so we may have buried 4 or 5 of them, maximum.
We used the service from the new CCAR Rabbi’s Manual. This short ceremony speaks of our reverence for the written word. We declare that we are burying these sacred texts which bear the name of God. We reiterate that our lives have been enriched by the teachings in these books and we remember that even though the physical items have become worn out, the sacred truths that they impart continue to resonant.
We then had a ceremony where we asked each child and then all others who wanted to participate to gently place one of the books into the grave so that they could actively participate in the mitzvah of burying the books. At the conclusion, we all recited the Mourner’s Kaddish.