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What are tachrichim?

By Yekusiel
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The Torah does not specify what clothing a person should be buried in, and for generations, people were buried in their own clothing. 

However, over time, people began to dress their deceased relatives in ever more expensive and lavish garments in a misguided attempt to show extra respect.

Rabban Gamliel, the Jewish leader at the time of the second Temple, saw that families were being unduly burdened by this runaway spending, and asked to be buried in simple, inexpensive linen garments.

These garments, — which include pants, a shirt, a jacket, and a head covering —  are known as tachrichim, and have been the standard Jewish burial  “uniform” for the last two thousand years.

But tachrichim do not merely set a physical standard, every aspect of them is layered with meaning. 

The fact that we are all buried in the same clothing underscores the idea that each of us — no matter what advantages or disadvantages we may have had during our lifetime — is equal in death.

They evoke the garments worn by the Kohen Gadol as he performed the Yom Kippur service in the Temple, a service that brought atonement to the nation. This accentuates the idea that after death, we will each experience a “personal” Yom Kippur. 

Although tachrichim may be made from any natural, biodegradable material, such as cotton and muslin, linen remains the classical choice. The Kohen Gadol’s garments, as well as the burial garments requested by Rabban Gamliel, were made entirely of linen, a material recognized in the Kabbalistic tradition as conferring unique spiritual benefits.

The garments have no pockets because we take nothing but our good deeds and Torah learning to the next world. They have no knots to symbolize their impermanence, reflecting our belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Like so many aspects of Jewish burial tradition  — and of Jewish tradition, generally — these simple garments interweave the spiritual with the material.

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