As a student at the University of Houston, I attended the weekly “Lunch and Learns” at Hillel. During one of these lunches, the President of Houston Chevra Kadisha taught us about the “tahara” ritual. He taught us about how a proper tahara includes a ritual washing and dressing of the deceased, all the while reciting prayers that beseeching God to lift the soul into the Heavens for eternal rest. He mentioned that if any of us were interested in becoming a part of the burial society, to call him. I must admit that while I enjoyed the lunch and thought the topic was interesting, there was no way that I could be in the same room as a deceased person. As a college student, I thought would be creepy and scary. Little did I know that this lecture would provide me the confidence to make a career change 20 years later.
As a Funeral Professional at Houston Jewish Funerals, I now understand what these Mitzvahs are all about. The Houston Chevra Kadisha group is actually made up of two parts. The first part being a team of incredibly compassionate volunteers perform the Tahara. The second part is the Shomers, who guard over the deceased until burial. While we may think that in modern society, we no longer need someone to protect the deceased, it remains a great comfort for the family to know that someone is sitting with their loved one at all times, watching over them and reciting psalms. I like to think about this ritual as something similar to when my grandfather would read me bedtime stories until I fell asleep. While in reality, he may have been reading a book, to me, he was guarding me from the monsters under my bed. I am humbled and honored that my career allows me to take part in these Mitzvahs whether it is 2 PM or 2 AM.
After first time I sat Shomer, while driving home, I thought about that lunch at my university Hillel. I realized that whether a person is Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, affiliated, or unaffiliated, the way we care for our loved ones is all part of Jewish tradition. While I am fortunate to have a career I love, I am truly blessed to be able perform Mitzvahs everyday.