Jewish Shiva: the first seven days of mourning

Shiva is a week long period of mourning done immediately after the funeral of a close relative which includes the father, mother, siblings, sons, daughters and spouse; they assume the role of “Halakhic” from the Hebrew word, which means mourner.

Shiva is simply the Hebrew word for seven. The seven-day period of mourning gives the person grieving time to reflect and reminisce the memory of a loved one and adjust to the loss suffered. Jewish law requires mourners to sit on the ground on a low chair to epitomize the mourner’s grief and  awareness that life will be different without his/her presence and the willingness and desire to be close to the earth in which the loved was laid to rest.

In Jewish laws and customs, certain traditions are being followed. All mirrors must be covered and a memorial candle must be lit. Some believe that mirrors attract spirits and keeping them uncloaked could trap a spirit inside. Mourners may not bathe or shower, you may wash parts of the body using cool water, but not the whole body, moreover washing with warm water. They refrain from wearing leather shoes or jewelry, cutting their hair, shaving or changing clothes. . Shiva practices are paused during Shabbat and resumed again after Shabbat.

It is customary for visitors to make condolences and Shiva calls during that week. Ideally visitors should respond rather than initiate conversation with those sitting Shiva; visitors must enter quietly, take a seat where the mourners might easily catch their presence and say nothing until the mourners make a conversation with them. Being sensitive and disposing other irrelevancy during these moments, is the main goal of this specific etiquette.

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