As the sliding doors slid open, I turned my gaze in the direction of the widening opening that would lead into the chapel; the funeral director appeared; and, he beckoned to me. He asked me whether I would like to meet the shomer. I quietly accepted the gracious invite with a polite nod. Leaving the confines of the antechamber, where my immediate family was still gathered, I entered the chapel where the funeral service would be held. There was a single occupant, sitting in the third pew back from the front of the room, where my father’s coffin rested.

After spending a few moments in silence, I approached the shomer, who wore black pants, a white shirt, and a black yarmulke. He was reading from a sefer (book). He explained that he was reading psalms, as required by the one designated to guard the body. The shmira (watch) began after the mincha service, on the afternoon of the day when my father passed away. That was Friday, erev Shabbos; and now on Monday morning, the guardian was still in place. The roots of this custom have to do with the actual guarding of the body; while the spiritual implications are about the protection of the soul, during this particular stage of transition. I felt privileged to have met the shomer, before the actual funeral service for my father took place; this was very comforting to my soul that day.

Published by Tzvi Fievel

My focus is on the synthesis of psychology, religion, and writing. I have undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English.

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