I have had a recent opportunity to consider the value of quiet time when a former BAJC member passed away and our congregation assisted in the funeral arrangements. We are fortunate to have members who are on call as a Chevra Kaddisha (holy society) to help with the traditional arrangements, which include both the ritual of tahara (purification) and of providing shomrim (watchers). Tahara involves cleansing the body and purification through immersion. The body is then dressed in the traditional shroud and placed in the casket. The shomrim keep a watch over the body so that it is not left alone from the time of tahara to the burial.
I sat as a shomer for a few hours at the funeral home with the casket and a few prayer books including a number of translations of the Psalms, which are traditionally read at such a time. The family provided some books and information about the deceased, so that the shomrim could feel a sense of connection to the deceased. I spent these several hours in quiet, in peace, in prayer and in waiting. The impact of this time has stayed with me, as it has with others who were watchers. I have relearned that one kind of time is not to be measured against other kinds of time, but that all time is valuable. Much can be learned during "down time" and empty time and quiet time. Such time, it can be argued, is indispensable to our wellbeing.
Our congregation maintains two chevra kaddisha groups—one for men and one for women. Both groups are happy to teach, to train, and to share knowledge of the customs and rituals regarding burial practice. The fulfilling of these rituals with respect, knowledge and caring is an important mitzvah, but it also can have a deeply spiritual impact on those who participate.