Seudat Havra’ah – Meal of Consolation

When the mourners return to the place that they will be sitting shiva in, one of the first things that they will do is to partake of the seudat havra’ah – meal of consolation. This should only be eaten by the people that are sitting shiva – however there is an opinion that all should/can eat it along with the mourners.

At this meal it is forbidden for a mourner to eat of something that they themselves have prepared and according to Rabbi Joseph Karo the author of the Shulchan Aruch it is a mitzva for another to bring the food. The Jerusalem Talmud actually rebukes neighbours for not bringing to the mourners this meal and causing them to prepare it themselves.

Traditionally the meal consists of two foods. One is bread and the second is a hard boiled egg. One custom is for the bread to be round like a bagel or roll, this is to show that the “circle of life” carries on.
The same reason applies to the egg. I have also heard that for the same reason we have an egg on the Peseach Seder plate. Some also have the custom to place some ashes on the egg to represent the grief and loss. Also the egg is the only food that when cooked hardens, showing the mourners that we sometimes have to harden ourselves to deal with reality. Another custom for the egg is that it should not be served whole but cut in half.

Some people have the custom to serve lentils, this is according to tradition is what Jacob was making for his father Yaakov when he was sitting shiva for Avraham when he sold them for Esau’s birthright (Genesis).


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