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A guide to Shiva

Judaism provides a structured period of mourning that may last up to one year, allowing the mourner to gradually heal by going through different stages of grief. In a years time, the mourner is able to accept and re-engage in his or her normal routines. The first period of structured mourning is Shiva. The word Shiva has many different meanings across different cultures. In Hebrew it means seven. Shiva, as it relates to Jewish mourning, is the seven-day mourning period for the immediate family of the deceased which consists of spouse, child, parent or sibling. ‘Sitting Shiva’ is a term used to describe the traditional ritual of the mourners the seven days after the deceased has been buried. Traditionally during the period of Shiva, mourners sat on low stools or boxes. This is where the phrase “to sit Shiva” came from. A Jewish individual who is mourning the loss of a loved one typically sits Shiva. You are considered a mourner when your spouse, mother, father, brother, sister or child passes away.

ShivaOften, other relatives also “sit Shiva” and mourn with you, but traditional Jewish law does not require their participation or consider them mourners. During the period of Shiva, mourners traditionally sit on low stools or boxes while they receive condolence calls. This is where the phrase “to sit Shiva” comes from.

Shiva observances

Whether you are sitting Shiva or visiting a Shiva home, you will encounter various types of observances. Some are traditional while others are liberally interpreted. Below you will see the definitions of some of the traditional fulfillments.

Staying Home

Mourners do not work during the Shiva period and for the most part stay at home. During the Shiva period mourners do not participate in parties, concerts, shows, movies etc.

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