Prayers for the Departed

The two disparate texts intoned at Ariel Sharon’s funeral tell us much about contemporary Jewish attitudes toward life, death, and the land of Israel.

The funeral of Ariel Sharon on January 13, 2014 in Havat Hashikmim, Negev, Israel. Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images.

The funeral of Ariel Sharon on January 13, 2014 in Havat Hashikmim, Negev, Israel. Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images.

Atar Hadari
Observation
Feb. 2 2017
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


Next Monday, according to the Hebrew calendar, is the third anniversary of the death of Ariel Sharon, the late prime minister of Israel. Thinking about that event has brought to my mind El maley raḥamim (“God full of mercy”), the brief prayer for the departed that is recited at funeral services, on the anniversary (yortsayt) of a death, and on visiting the graves of deceased relatives. Before reverting to Sharon’s death and funeral service, I want to explore the prayer itself.

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More about: Ariel Sharon, History & Ideas, Religion & Holidays, The Monthly Portion