After the Burial Comes the Mourning
It is Jewish custom that mourning practices be divided into various periods, with each one having its own intensity.
Whatever the period of mourning, there is much expression of grief before the person returns back to normal life.
Once a Jewish person hears of the passing of their family member or relative, it is customary to demonstrate one’s grief by tearing one’s clothes.
This tradition is known as Keriyah. If it is a parent or child, the tear is where the heart is. And for other relatives, over the right side of the chest.
All enjoyable activities cease forthwith
After the burial, a close relative of the family or a good friend will prepare the first meal for the mourners. This is known as the se’udat havra’ah or meal of condolence. This meal mostly consists of bread and eggs which are a symbol of life.
There is another period of mourning called shiva. It lasts for seven days, starting on the day of burial and going on until the morning of the 7th day after burial. Mourners keep a low profile during this time and don’t work, shave or partake in any enjoyable activities. Mirrors are also covered at this time so that mourners cannot see themselves.
The bereaved devote all attention and thought to the deceased. Traditionally, when visitors arrive at the shiva home, there are no greetings. Visitors wait for mourners to initiate conversation, or they remain silent if the mourners don’t talk. That shows respect for their bereavement
It is customary for people to pay a Shiva call to those sitting Shiva. Jews don’t send flowers, but it is appropriate to bring food at this time. There are some Jewish communities where an arrangement is in place where the members of the Jewish burial society organise the meals for the mourners and also serve refreshments for visitors.
During shiva, ten or more adults gather at the shiva home for services for prayers and verse readings, and the reciting of the Kaddish.
Shloshim is the next period of mourning, and it lasts until the 30th day after burial. There are no social activities such as parties during this mourning period. At the end of shloshim, the formal mourning period ends, except for those who are mourning parents.
Some Jewish people mark the end of shloshim with a special minyan where the mourner speaks about the deceased. This is also the time for a public memorial service, held at the end of shloshim.
A Framework for Mourning
The Jewish tradition of mourning provides a framework for the Jewish people to mourn before resuming normal life while continuing certain mourning rituals during Sheloshim and the First Year. The Torah’s mourning laws lay out the mourning period which is so important for the healing process.
The mourning rituals mandated by the Torah empower the Jewish nation with the tools to respect and honour the departed in a way which they believe is beneficial for the departed as well as those left behind who have to continue life without them in it.
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