Q. It’s a morbid question, but can you tell me something about the type of coffin that should be used for a Jewish funeral?
A. To begin with, let me reiterate the well-known fact that Judaism believes the body should be laid to rest in the earth, not destroyed by burning.
The body is prepared in the traditional way, clothed in tachrichim (shrouds) and placed in a wooden coffin. The same simple coffin is used, no matter whether a person might have been rich, famous or important; in death, all are equal. Because the Torah says, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19), the body must be allowed to decompose and return to the earth, and this is facilitated by the use of a coffin made of wood. A metal coffin would obstruct the process of decomposition.
The practice in Israel is to bury the body on a bier of intertwined reeds.