“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
Why Don’t Jews Have Flowers at Funerals?
When Jews point to tradition to explain a religious or cultural practice, this usually indicates, as confirmed by Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, that no one knows “why” Jews do what they do. I have been a Jew for 62 years (which is a long time), and I am pretty sure that most Jews have no idea why flowers are not sent, other than it is a tradition that Jews are not supposed to send flowers to funerals.
Flowers indicate a celebration, and Jews don’t celebrate the death of a loved one
My Rabbi told me that since Jews don’t celebrate death, flowers are inappropriate. This is the answer I give to people when asked.
Jews believe that everyone is equal in death. Since not all Jews can afford floral arrangements, no Jews should have floral arrangements to keep things equal
Jews place a high value on equality in death, and flowers (especially large floral arrangements) are a sign of affluence that differentiates wealthy Jews from poor Jews. That means Jews with flowers are “more equal” to Jews who cannot afford flowers. So, no Jews get flowers at the time of death.
Jews do not believe flowers are a permanent or fitting memorial for a loved one
Flowers are temporary and quickly wither and die. Jews believe that the most appropriate memorials are those that live on and last, such as giving money to a charity or cause to help the poor and/or oppressed where the benefits of the gift will live long into the future.
If Flowers Are “Out,” What Is Appropriate As A Gift To Show Respect?
There are typically two gifts that will always be appropriate.
A food basket or order from the local delicatessen (fruit, dessert, or a platter) is always appropriate and welcome.
Donations to a charity in honor of the deceased, charitable contributions, are also always a “winner.” However, there is one subtle point that non-Jews would not know…always make donations in multiples of $18. That means your donation could be $18, $36, $54, etc. 18 is considered a lucky number, and donations in multiples of $18 are most appreciated.
If you would like advice on Jewish funeral gift-giving, please feel free to call our office at 561-717-2876, and it will be our privilege to answer your questions.