Literally "Holy Society". The "Ch" is guttural, like in "Loch".
The Chevra Kadisha is the Jewish burial society, a group of people (often volunteers) who prepare the body of a Jewish person before burial. This involves
- Physically cleaning the body.
- Spiritually cleaning the body (pouring fresh water a number of times over the body).
- Dressing the body in burial robes - all (Orthodox) Jews are buried in plain white robes, and often men in their Tallit. Everybody is equal in death.
- Placing the body in the coffin and bringing it to the cemetery. Again, everybody is buried in a plain coffin.
Being a member of the Chevra Kadisha is seen as an incredibly important job as the dead are always treated with the utmost of respect. For example:
- The body should never be left unattended from death until the burial.
- The body should never be totally uncovered during the cleaning.
- When "private parts" of the body are cleaned, these must be done as quickly as possible.
A Cohen cannot be a member of the Chevra Kadisha, as Cohanim are not permitted to be in the same room as a dead body (with the exception of an immediate relative - parent, child, sibling or wife).