Article courtesy of Shiva.com
The Jewish mourning process is unique and rich in traditions and customs.
According to Jewish law, there are three defined and prescribed periods of mourning following a burial, providing clear and definitive time periods, acts, and rituals for mourners. Mourners are also defined with specificity. The mourning process is intended to ensure that in a year’s time, the mourner is able to cope with the loss and be prepared to re-engage in his or her normal routines.
Here is an overview of each of the three mourning periods:
Immediately following the burial, the mourning process begins upon returning to the home of a mourner. This is called “shiva,” which by definition means seven, or the duration of the first period of mourning. On the first day of shiva a seven-day candle, called a ‘shiva candle’ is lit that will burn through the entire week. During shiva, the family and community enter the family home to mourn, pray and show support. The primary purpose of “sitting shiva” is to create an environment of comfort and community for mourners. Traditionally, family members do not work or participate in the routine of their normal lives.
The second period of mourning, “sheloshim” (“thirty”) lasts 30 days after the burial. Sheloshim includes the shiva period. Observed by the immediate family, Sheloshim is designed to allow mourners to overcome the shock of death. While mourners resume many of their daily activities, including returning to work, they continue to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish daily and refrain from celebrations and parties.
Year of Mourning:
The third period is the year of mourning. This period applies only to those mourning the death of a parent. If a parent has died, the formal mourning period lasts an entire year. Upon completion of the year, mourning is completed, and all daily activities resume without restriction.
Jewish Memorial Events
Judaism honors and commemorates loved ones throughout the year during dedicated memorial events. Similar to other Jewish funeral traditions, the monument unveiling is a traditional mourning ritual taking place within the first year of one’s passing.
Yahrzeit is the observance of the anniversary of one’s death in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. It is common for the immediate family to light a yahrzeit candle the night before the anniversary of the death every year, which will burn for 24 hours. Traditionally the mourner also recites the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Yizkor, a public memorial prayer service, occurs four times a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as well as on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, and on the last days of the holidays Passover and Shavuot. Traditionally, mourners will go to synagogue to mourn with the community.
Understanding these mourning customs is important for funeral directors when relating to Jewish families and helping to provide options for authentic Jewish funeral services.
For More Information
If you are interested in learning more about Jewish funeral traditions or preparing your team to serve the Jewish families in your community, reach out to the shiva.com team 877-778-0019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shiva.com and its partner, Jewish Funeral Group, are also hosting several upcoming educational seminars across the country. To learn more visit JewishFuneralGroup.com.
Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series. Stay tuned for parts two and three!