Archive for the ‘mourner’ Tag

Shiva – the first seven days of mourning

As discussed in a previous blog once the mourners return to the shiva house following the burial they partake of the meal of condolence. Shiva is the hebrew word for seven. During the period of the shiva various laws apply to the mourners.

The mourners sit on a low stool or remove the main cushions from the sofa. In Israel there is also a custom to sit on cushions or matresses on the floor. If one has a medical problem that will be made worse by sitting on a low chair one should consult the local Rabbi. A pregnant woman should sit on a normal chair – again confirm this with the local Rabbi.

The idea of sitting on a lower chair is meant to bring home the feeling of “feeling low” as according to the English expression. We carry out this literally.

As the mourners should avoid leaving the house, if possible, during the week of shiva it should be arranged for the three services (Shacharit, Mincha & Aravit) to be carried out at the house, especially if one of the mourners is saying kaddish. If the person saying kaddish is not one of the mourners (only women are sitting shiva) then it is quite common for there only to be services in the evening.

During the services one of the mourners that are saying kaddish lead the services. There are certain parts of our daily prayers that we don’t say in a shiva house and a couple that we add. This will be discussed at a future date.

There are certain “luxuries” that a mourner is to abstain from during the week of shiva. They may not shave, take a bath or shower, wear leather shoes – except for Shabbat or Purim, when no public sign of mourning is allowed, have marital relations and launder their clothes.
One is also not allowed to work during the shiva however if the loss involved is a large amount (each individual case is different) then the person may be allowed to return to his work after three days – again the local Rabbi should be consulted.


Aninut – The start of the process

From the moment that a person dies – one of the seven close family members that one sits shiva for is called an Onen. This applies if one was with the person who died or from the moment that one hears about the death and the burial has not yet taken place. The Onen is free from all mitzvot, as they are assumed to be dealing with the burial details. During this period of time it is not normal to try and comfort the mourner as they are not in a state to receive comfort and consolations.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik states that aninut is the spur of the moment human reaction to death. Doubts and questions appear in the persons mind concerning all sorts of things to do with mankind and his convictions. The mourner may well start to question G-d and his ways,
especially when the person that died is a child, for example.
In this state of mind it is not possible for a mourner to be able to concentrate on any kind of mitzva. The rule of law – the Halacha – says “take a time out”. It displays compassion in this case, it gives the mourner time to start the process of grieving. The whole concept of aninut, shiva, shloshim, the year and then yarzheit is to help the mourner to cope in a manageable way with the task of returning back to their everyday existence.
Unfortunately, in most cases it is only after one has gone through the above process that one can see how consoling and comforting it is to have the various time periods for reflection and let it help the mourner work their way back into their daily workload.