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A non-Jewish co-worker who was invited to a Jewish funeral asked me how long they typically are.

I told her that, thank God, I hadn't been to many, but my understanding is that they probably vary a great deal, depending on what the family wants to do.

I expect that my answer was correct but not very helpful to someone who was trying to determine how the funeral would fit into her schedule. Do you have a better response to this question? Any clues that could help someone guess ahead of time how long the funeral will be?

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@yydl, My point in including the quotation marks in the question was that I'm interested in ideas for how to respond to the question in the title more than I am in the answer to the question itself. –  Isaac Moses Sep 18 '11 at 5:49
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have, unfortunately, been to a lot of funerals and it has been my experience with a synagogue or funeral home funeral that the length depends on how many people speak, how well known/liked the person is, etc. I've rarely been to a funeral that the service part (not going to the cemetery) was longer than an hour.

A graveside service is rarely longer than 1/2 hour. At one graveside service I went to, I was the only one besides the Rabbi who spoke -- I think the whole thing was less than 20 minutes.

Keep in mind, if you go to the burial, part of the service is shoveling dirt on the grave. That could be just ceremonial or it could be, in the case of someone well liked or well known, until all the dirt is in the grave.

I have never been to a Gentile funeral, so I really have nothing to compare it to.

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Graveside service? Half an hour, most of the time.

If I recall correctly, that's what I was told by an experienced rabbi.

The big variables here are speeches and the actual burial. Any remarks made graveside are usually brief and fit within the half hour, but you never know. As for the burial, assuming those present are doing the mitzva of shoveling earth back over the coffin, the time it takes to do this may depend on soil conditions (frozen, clay, etc) and how many able-bodied people are present. Even so, most likely after a half hour, either the coffin will be fully buried, or the people will be exhausted and leave the rest to the undertakers.

If the service starts in a synagogue or funeral home, then you have to factor in the time for the initial service and transport to the cemetery. But graveside, half an hour.

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It depends on the family's preferences a lot but also on their minhagim. For example, I've been to Litvish (Lithuanian style) funerals where the hespeidim (eulogies) took hours. On the other hand, the Chabad minhag is not to have hespeidim at all, so the funeral is usually as long as a Kel Malei Rachamim, Tziduk Hadin, Tehillim, Kadish, and the time it takes to fill the grave ( <30 minutes).

Also, it may depend on the time of year, as there are certain times of the year that hespeidim are not allowed. (Don't remember when, though. Anyone have any ideas?)

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As a general rule, no hespedim when no tachanun. There may be exceptions though... –  Double AA Dec 13 '11 at 22:49
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@DoubleAA thanks! Yeah, i think there are other factors and times as well. –  HodofHod Dec 14 '11 at 0:14
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