Shiva means “seven” in Hebrew . In the Jewish tradition, Shiva refers to the seven days of mourning which begins immediately after the funeral of a love one. This custom was said to come from one of the verses in Genesis, where Joseph mourns the death of his father Jacob for a week. In Jewish tradition, other relatives can join the week long period of mourning, but the Jewish law does not require their participation. Only the first degree relatives assume the role of “halakhic” means mourner in Hebrew. The father, mother, siblings, son, daughters and spouse are the only ones allowed to participate. The process of following this ritual is referred to as “sitting” Shiva.
During this period, the people sitting Shiva are relieved from any obligations. House chores, work, school or engaging in any pleasurable activities of any kind, whether sensual, sexual, athletic or intellectual. By doing this, they give honor to deceased by focusing themselves exclusively from feeling the pain of losing their love one. Mourning do not always (but preferably) takes place in the home of the deceased, Shiva may be observed in multiple locations when there are cases when relatives live in different cities or the house of the deceased is not big enough to accommodate everyone.
Other traditional practices include, covering of all mirrors in the house and leave them covered until the end of Shiva. Beliefs say that spirits are attracted to mirrors and leaving them uncloaked could trap the spirits inside. The mourners wear torn garments for a ritual called “keriah”, they do not bathe nor shave. They can wash various parts of their body using cool water, but it is prohibited to wash the whole body, moreover, using hot water. Using and wearing of leather shoes is prohibited. The mourner must sit on a low chair, where it is close to the ground. This symbolizes being struck down by grief.
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