What to Say in Hebrew When Someone Dies: 7 Messages

Updated

Offering condolences when a friend or family member has lost a loved one is a simple but crucial way you can let someone who’s grieving know they’re not alone. Sometimes it’s particularly thoughtful to offer condolences in a way that respects someone’s religion or culture, even if you’re not from that culture.

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For example, if you’re attending a Jewish funeral but you’re not Jewish yourself, you may want to know what to say in Hebrew when someone dies. Knowing certain Hebrew condolence messages can be useful even if you’re not able to attend a funeral, but still want to express your sympathy to a Jewish friend who recently experienced a loss.

The following are a few traditional Hebrew phrases you might say when someone dies.

Hebrew Condolence Messages for the Loss of a Parent

As with the secular phrase “Sorry for your loss,” many Hebrew condolence phrases can apply after the death of any individual. That said, these are particularly ideal if someone is mourning the loss of a parent:

1. Zekher tzadik livrakha

This Hebrew phrase translates to “May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.” Use it after the death of a parent who was very passionate about their Jewish faith and whose actions in life embodied their Jewish values.

2. Shelo ted'u od tza'ar

If someone’s elderly parent died, they may have had the unpleasant experience of watching them slowly succumb to illness or old age. If so, you might comfort them with this Hebrew phrase, which means “That you should know no further sorrow.”

The mourner may grieve their loss, while also taking comfort in the knowledge that their parent is at peace, and they no longer have to watch them suffer. 

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Hebrew Condolence Messages for the Loss of a Sibling

Help a Jewish friend cope with the loss of a sibling by sharing a message of condolences:

3. Hamakom y'nachem etchem b'toch sh'ar availai tziyon ee yerushalayim

This is a common Hebrew condolence message that essentially translates to “May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” This message can actually apply after any loss, not just the loss of a sibling, and is often part of traditional sitting shiva practices. There’s a relatively good chance you’ll hear others speak it at some point during a Jewish funeral.

Hebrew Condolence Messages for the Loss of a Friend

The loss of a friend may call for a general Hebrew condolences phrase. Consider this example:

4. Tanchumin

This Hebrew phrase translates to “condolences.” Like many Hebrew phrases, it doesn’t necessarily have a direct English translation. Another translator might equate it more with the idea of “comfort” in general than condolences specifically. Regardless, it’s a common phrase to say in Hebrew after someone dies.

Hebrew Condolence Messages for the Loss of a Partner or Spouse

If you’re looking for a message that’s appropriate after someone has lost a partner or spouse, you may want to use the following:

5. Zichrono livrachah or Zichronah livrachah

These Hebrew phrases translate to “May his memory be a blessing” and “May her memory be a blessing,” respectively. They may remind someone mourning the loss of a partner or spouse that, while it’s entirely natural to grieve now, they can one day look back with gratitude for the time they did get to share together.

Hebrew Condolence Messages for the Loss of a Child

While no words can fully ease the pain a grieving parent may face, these messages may offer at least some comfort:

6. Baruch dayan emet

This phrase means “Blessed is the true judge.” It’s another traditional Hebrew phrase that’s common at any funeral.

However, it may be particularly appropriate after a child’s passing. Because making sense of a child’s loss can be very difficult, this Hebrew condolence message could remind someone with strong Jewish faith that a higher power has a plan, even if they can’t see it right now.

7. Min haShamayim Tenuhamu

This phrase might also help a mourning parent find some peace in their religious beliefs. It translates to “May you be consoled from Heaven.”

Hebrew and Jewish Funeral Gifts

Along with wondering what to say in Hebrew when someone dies, you might also wonder what you should bring as a gift to a Jewish funeral. While the personal preferences of one family may be different from those of another, in general, the following are all acceptable options to consider:

Shiva basket

As the name implies, this is a gift you might give during the sitting shiva ceremony. Numerous companies and Jewish organizations offer gift baskets featuring items (usually various types of food) someone might traditionally offer at this time.

A home-cooked meal is an alternative to a shiva basket. If you can’t find a pre-made shiva basket in time to send it as a gift, you can instead offer to bring food or cook a meal for mourners. Just be sure to search for traditional Jewish recipes if you want to honor someone’s culture with the utmost respect.

Acts of kindness

A funeral gift doesn’t need to be a physical item. Many Jewish teachings emphasize the importance of doing good deeds in the world. Thus, some suggest that the best gift to offer a Jewish family in mourning is to do a good deed, such as donating to an appropriate charity or Jewish organization.

Candles

Memorial candles play a significant role in various Jewish funeral practices. That means a candle is often the perfect gift after a Jewish friend loses a loved one. However, because these candles have spiritual significance, you may want to purchase one from a retailer or organization specializing in Jewish memorial candles. A generic candle might not have the same meaning.

Note: You may have many questions about Jewish condolences and funeral traditions. Perhaps you’re wondering whether flowers will make for an acceptable funeral gift.

The answer: it depends. Flowers don’t traditionally play a role in Jewish funerals. In fact, some discourage sending flowers, because in some sects of Judaism cutting down flowers and interrupting the cycle of their lives is actually a misdeed.

However, not all Jewish families feel this way. If you’re comfortable asking them, someone involved in planning the funeral may be able to answer whether you should send flowers or not. That said, unless you have confirmation that flowers are acceptable, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not send any. Another gift may be a safer bet.

What to Say in Hebrew When Someone Dies: Traditional Messages

Knowing what to say to anyone in mourning can be difficult. It’s even more of a challenge if you want to respect their religious beliefs, but you come from a different background. Luckily, guides such as this one can point you in the right direction in these circumstances.


Sources

  1. Angel, Rabbi Marc D. “Nahamu, Nahamu: Thoughts on Consolation.” Ideas, Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, www.jewishideas.org/nahamu-nahamu-thoughts-consolation
  2. Klug, Lisa Alcalay. “Jewish Funeral Customs: Saying Goodbye to a Loved One.” Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ, Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ, www.jfedgmw.org/jewish-funeral-customs-saying-goodbye-to-a-loved-one#:~:text=Following%20the%20burial%2C%20non%2Dfamily,mourners%20of%20Zion%20and%20Jerusalem.
  3. Zaklikowski, Dovid. “The Jewish Blessing on Death.” Chabad.org, Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1582773/jewish/The-Jewish-Blessing-on-Death.htm
  4. “Death and Mourning.” Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue, Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue, rossingcenter.org/en/judaisms/death-and-mourning/
  5. “Flowers and the Jewish Mourning Tradition.” Shiva.com, Shiva.com, LLC, www.shiva.com/learning-center/what-to-bring-or-send/flowers-and-jewish-mourning/
  6. “How to say "condolences" in Hebrew.” Ulpan La-Inyan, Ulpan La-Inyan, ulpan.com/how-to-say-condolences-in-heb/#:~:text=The%20Hebrew%20word%20for%20condolences,The%20root%20is%20%D7%A0.
  7. “Jewish Sympathy Gifts.” Jewish Funerals, Funeral Innovations, www.jewishfuneralsusa.com/2019/09/19/jewish-sympathy-gifts/

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