Feb 7, 1998 - 03:55 -
I have a question:
In Jewish communities that use caskets (rather than just shrouds or a bed of reeds) the casket must be made of wood. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that the body and shroud should not decompose much sooner than the coffin. Theoretically, wooden caskets that have metal nails or handles would not violate the letter of Jewish law, however longstanding custom demands that wooden pegs be used.
An excellent compendium of Jewish burial and mourning rituals is Maurice Lamm's book, "The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning". I recommend that everyone read it once, long *before* they have a specific need for the information in it. It can be ordered from Amazon.Com on-line at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0824604229/thelearnersminyaA/
(By the way, the air-tight metal caskets prevalent in non-Jewish funeral homes can actually *accellerate* the decomposition of the body, due to anaerobic bacteria that thrive in an oxygen-free environment -- exactly the opposite of the suggestions of those who market them to the bereaved.)