The Funeral Ceremony
One of the chief purposes of the funeral service is to pay reverence to the deceased. During the service, a rabbi reads selected prayers and psalms, including El Malei Rachamim, a prayer that asks for repose of the departed soul. Carrying on a tradition that began with Abraham, who eulogized his wife Sarah (Genesis 23:2), a eulogy is given to praise the departed one and express the grief felt by family and friends.
Before the chapel service or at the graveside service, the ritual of Keriah (tearing) is performed. This involves rending (tearing) one's garments as a display of separation. The practice has its origins in Genesis 37:34, where “Jacob rent his garments” when informed (erroneously) that his son, Joseph, was killed by a wild animal. The garments may also be torn immediately upon hearing of the death of a loved one. In lieu of tearing up their clothes, some Jews wear a black ribbon.
All branches of Judaism agree that, out of respect for the body, the casket must remain closed. There should not be a public viewing. Although it's contrary to traditional practices, it is not unusual for members of the immediate family to conduct a private viewing before the funeral service.
Note that people tear their garments as an act of mourning for a parent, child, sibling, or spouse. Others tear their clothes in mourning for their parents but wear a black ribbon for all other relatives.
It is Jewish custom that the family and friends physically assist in the burial, throwing clumps of earth over the coffin. Those gathered at the grave then say the Kaddish, which marks the end of the burial service. Interestingly, this traditional prayer for the dead actually doesn't discuss death but exalts God and appeals for world peace.
From that point on, when the deceased has been given due respect and the body properly buried, the person who passed away is no longer the focus of attention. The concern now must focus on the mourners, whose sense of anguish at the loss of a loved one does not cease as the last shovel of earth is thrown over the grave. In recognition of the feelings of the mourners and to pay proper deference to the memory of the departed one, Judaism has specific procedures in place for the period of mourning.