Customs are like law
I was surprised that none of the rabbinic quotations included in “Origin of funeral visitation unknown; practice controversial” (Dec. 31) commented on the concept of minchag yisroel k’din (customs of the people are like law). Some of these minchagim are so ingrained in Jewish practice that many don’t even realize they are based in custom, such as the wearing of kippot. As the Talmud says, “If you want to know the law, go forth and see how the people are accustomed to act” (Brachot 45a).
The Pittsburgh way
I grew up in Denver but have lived most of my adult life in Pittsburgh, and as a result, most of my funeral going has been at Ralph Schugar.
When my father died a couple of years ago, his funeral was at a synagogue in Denver (Hebrew Educational Alliance). The sanctuary was filled with people from many walks of life, as my dad had been a beloved doctor. There was no Pittsburgh-style visitation before the service (“Origin of funeral visitation unknown; practice controversial,” Dec. 31), and the vast majority of people attending did not come to the shiva. I never got to say hello or speak to any of them, and at the time, I bemoaned the fact that in Denver, they don’t do it “the way they do it in Pittsburgh.”