Shiva (Hebrew: שִׁבְעָה, literally "seven") is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives. The ritual is referred to as "sitting shiva" in English. Traditionally, there are five stages of mourning in Judaism. Shiva is considered the third stage, and lasts for seven days. Following the initial period of despair and lamentation immediately after the death, shiva embraces a time when individuals discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others. Its observance is a requirement for the parents, spouses, children, and/or siblings of the person who has died. It is not a requirement for an individual who was less than thirty days old at the time of death. At the funeral, mourners wear an outer garment that is torn before the procession in a ritual known as keriah. In some traditions, mourners wear a black ribbon that is cut in place of an everyday garment. The torn article is worn throughout the entirety of shiva. Typically, the seven days begin immediately after the deceased has been buried. Following burial, mourners assume the halakhic status of avel (Hebrew: אבל, "mourner"). It is necessary for the burial spot to be entirely covered with earth in order for shiva to commence. This state lasts for the entire duration of shiva. During the period of shiva, mourners remain at home. Friends and family visit those in mourning in order to give their condolences and provide comfort. The process, though dating back to biblical times, mimics the natural way an individual confronts and overcomes grief. Shiva allows for the individual to express their sorrow, discuss the loss of a loved one, and slowly re-enter society.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Biblical accounts of shiva
- 3 Stages of bereavement
- 4 Computing the timing of shiva and sheloshim
- 5 Shiva customs
- 6 Prayers in the shiva house
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The word shiva comes from the Hebrew word shiv'ah (Hebrew: שבעה, lit. 'seven'). Historical and biblical accounts depict multi-day periods of mourning, time set aside strictly for observing and expressing grief. There are many instances mentioned which describe the traditional Judaic process of mourning known as shiva.
Biblical accounts of shiva
- Amos stated that he would "turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentations". In this instance, Amos described a period of time set aside specifically for grieving and accepting the loss of a loved one. During this time, he states that throughout the process of mourning one should refrain from feasting and songs, thus signifying a rejection of celebrations.
- Within the story of Joseph and his father, Jacob, the Genesis 50:1-14 describes the time in which Joseph grieves over the loss of his father. The seven day period of mourning that Joseph endured was depicted by the sages before the revelation at Mount Sinai.
- In the Book of Job, it was stated that Job mourned his misfortune for seven days. During this time, he sat on the ground with his friends surrounding him. This account bears similarities to the maintained tradition of "sitting shiva" for precisely seven days.
- Some interpret Leviticus 10:19 to mean that Aaron, a High Priest, describes a similar process of mourning to that of which we see today. Aaron explained to Moses that the time allotted for mourning is not meant to feast, however it is meant to express grief for the loss of loved ones. The context, however, is as follows (per the JPS 1917 translation of Tanakh):
¶"16 And Moses diligently inquired for the goat of the sin-offering, and, behold, it was burnt; and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron that were left, saying: 17 'Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and He hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, the blood of it was not brought into the sanctuary within; ye should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.' 19 And Aaron spoke unto Moses: 'Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the LORD, and there have befallen me such things as these; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the LORD? 20 And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight."
Stages of bereavement
The process of mourning begins with the first stage, otherwise known as Aninut. During this time, individuals experience the initial shock of their loss. Often times emotions associated with the period of Aninut include anger, denial, and disbelief. This is the most extreme period of mourning, and it is at this time in which the keriah, or the rending of the garments, is performed. The stage commences from the moment the individual dies until the end of the funeral. Following Aninut is shiva, in which the mourners delve into seven days dedicated towards remembrance of the deceased individual. Throughout shiva, individuals are instructed to take a break from their routines in order to focus on their loss as well. Following shiva is the stage of mourning known as sheloshim. During this period, mourning proceeds for thirty days following the burial. The first seven days of sheloshim is the period of shiva, however sheloshim continues on after shiva has ended. After the intense period of shiva, which is mainly contained to the home, sheloshim allows individuals to leave their residences and begin to interact with others again. Sheloshim encourages individuals to begin to partake in social relations in order to slowly ease back into normal daily activities. Through the final stage, yahrzeit or yizkor, the twelve month period of mourning ceases and yearly remembrance ceremonies are held for the individual who had died.
Computing the timing of shiva and sheloshim
The period of shiva mourning commences immediately after the burial; the remainder of the day is considered to be the first day of shiva, even though it is only a partial day. On the seventh day (e.g., on Monday, if the first day was Tuesday), shiva ends in the morning after shacharit prayers (if no public services are held on the morning of the seventh day, a service is conducted in the home of the mourner); thus, the seventh day is again a partial day. The sheloshim period of mourning continues until the end of morning services on the 30th day, 23 days after the end of shiva; as with shiva, the two partial days at the beginning and end are counted as full days. 
Religious holidays during times of mourning
Religious holidays during shiva and sheloshim require the traditional rules to be bent slightly. Because Judaism embraces the holidays with joy, the sadness and grief associated with mourning are meant to be set aside until the holiday concludes. Typically, if an individual dies before the beginning of a holiday, the holiday removes the observance of shiva or sheloshim. The days of the holiday are counted towards the days of mourning, and the rules enforced during mourning are revoked in order to encourage the celebration of a holiday. If a death occurred during the holiday or unknowingly, mourning commences after the holiday ends. In other situations, if the entirety of shiva has been observed prior to the start of a holiday, the holiday will cancel the observance of sheloshim, signifying the fulfillment of this period of mourning.
During Shabbat, private mourning continues, while public mourning is suspended. Individuals are permitted to wear shoes and leave their home to partake in public prayer services. In order to prepare for Shabbat, individuals are allowed to interrupt shiva for up to one hour and fifteen minutes in order to cook, dress, and perform other tasks. If this is not enough time to do so, in certain situations there may be two and a half hours allotted for such.
During Passover, any days in observance of shiva before the start will equate to seven when the holiday begins. Since Passover is celebrated for eight days, any mourning prior will total to fifteen days when holiday ends, leaving only fifteen days of observance of sheloshim.
During Shavuot, any days in observance of shiva before the start will equate to seven when the holiday begins. The first day of Shavuot equates to seven days. The second day of Shavuot is considered the fifteenth day, leaving only fifteen days left of observance of sheloshim.
During Succot, any days in observance of shiva before the start will equate to seven when the holiday begins. Since Succot is observed for seven days, any mourning prior will total to fourteen days when the holiday ends. Shemini Atzeret is considered the eighth day of Succot, and equates to seven days of mourning. Simchat Torah is considered the twenty-second day of mourning, leaving only eight days of observance of sheloshim.
During Rosh Hashanah, any days in observance of shiva before the start will equate to seven days when the holiday begins. Yom Kippur following Rosh Hashanah, will symbolize the end of mourning, and the end of both shiva and sheloshim.
During Yom Kippur, any days in observance of shiva before the start will equate to seven days when the holiday begins. Succot, following Yom Kippur, will symbolize the end of mourning, and the end of both shiva and sheloshim.
If the death occurs during Yom Tov, shiva does not begin until the burial is completed. Burial may not take place on Yom Tov, but can during the intermediate days of Succot or Passover, otherwise known as Chol HaMoed.
If a burial occurs on Chol HaMoed of Passover, shiva does not begin until after the Yom Tov is completed. In the Diaspora, where most Yom Tovim are observed for two days, mourning does not take place on the second day, but the day is still counted as one of the days of shiva.
There are many traditions that are upheld in order to observe shiva. Throughout this time, mourners are required to stay at home and refrain from engaging with the social world.
After hearing of the death of a close relative, Jewish beliefs and traditions instruct individuals to tear their clothing as the primary expression of grief. The process of tearing the garment is known as keriah. Upon tearing the clothing, the mourner recites a blessing which describes "the true Judge" as God. This blessing reminds mourners to acknowledge that God has taken the life of a close relative, and is seen as the first step in the acceptance of grief. The garment is torn over the heart if the individual who died was a parent, or over the chest on the right side if the individual who died was another relative. The torn article of clothing is worn throughout the period of shiva, the only exception being on Shabbat. A major Jewish Holiday would terminate the Shiva, whereas the Shabbat merely suspends certain aspects thereof.
After being near or around the deceased, it is ancient custom to wash yourself, or at minimum wash hands, as a means of purification. After a funeral, or visitation to a cemetery, individuals are required to wash hands as a mark of spiritual transition through water. During shiva, it is especially mandatory to do so before entering the home. There are many different origins of this tradition, however typically the act is associated with symbolic cleansing, the idea being that death is impure in a spiritual sense. Within Judaism, the living is thought to emphasize value of life rather than focus on death. When washing hands after visiting the deceased, it is custom to not pass the cup of water used from person to person. The reason behind this stems from the beliefs and hopes of stopping the tragedy it began, rather than allowing it to continue from person to person as symbolized by the passing of the cup.
Meal of Condolences
The first meal which should be eaten after the funeral is known as the seudat havra'ah (Hebrew: סעודת הבראה, "meal of comforting"). Traditionally, mourners should be served the meal of condolences by neighbors. The act of preparing such meal is considered to be a mitzvah. Though being the tradition, if the meal of condolences is unable to be prepared by a neighbor, extended family may do so, and in the last case the mourner themselves may prepare the meal. It was seen that many times following the death of a loved one, individuals who were in mourning possessed a death wish and often times attempted to undergo starvation. The meal given to them upon returning home provided warmth in order to lessen such wishes. In order to be deemed the meal of condolences, the food selections must contain several specific dishes. An example of this is bread, which is symbolic for the staff of life. Aside from this, the meal must contain hard-boiled eggs, cooked vegetables, and coffee or tea. Often times wine is allowed to be served as well. The only time the meal of condolences is not served occurs when there is no public observance of mourning or if the individual who died did so due to suicide.
Within Judaism, candles are symbolic of special events throughout life. They are lit during major holidays, during Shabbat, and during the process of mourning candles are required to burn for the entirety of shiva. Prior to the death of Rabbi Judah Hanasi in the third century, he instructed that a light should be kept burning. During shiva, the candle represents the deceased. The light is symbolic of the human being, the wick and flame are representative of the body and soul respectively, as well as their connection with one another. Traditionally, candles are required to be made of either oil or paraffin and are not allowed to be electric. The candle is ideally burned in the home of the deceased, however exceptions can be made. Regardless, however, candles should be in the presence of those observing shiva. During major holidays, the candle may be moved in order to lessen the feeling of mourning and focus on the joyous occasion at hand.
Individuals who are in mourning, or in a shiva home, are required to cover mirrors from the time an individual dies until the end of shiva. There are several reasons as to why Judaism requires this. The first reason may stem from the idea that man was created in the image of God. In doing so, man acquires the same dignity and value as God. When a creation of God dies, this lessens His image. The death of human beings disrupts the connection between the living man and living God. Since the purpose of mirrors is to reflect such image, they are covered during mourning. A second reason as to why mirrors are covered in Judaism branches from contemplation of ones relationship with God during the death of a loved one. At this time, individuals are instructed to focus on grief and mourning rather than themselves. In order to prevent selfish thoughts, all mirrors are covered within the homes of mourners. A third reason which depicts why mirrors should be covered comes from the law which states that an individual may not stand directly in front of an image or worship one. Therefore, mirrors and pictures are hidden during mourning.
Some have an additional custom to cover all pictures of people.:p.54 (3:37), p.179 (16:4):pp.229-230 One reason, which is linked to the covering of mirrors (and, by some, all pictures of people too) is that prayer services are held in the house of mourning, if a quorum can be gathered, and "Jewish law clearly states that one may not worship an image or standing directly in front of one .. picture .. mirror.":p.104
Leather shoes are not permitted to be worn during the observance of shiva. The reasoning behind this involves a lack of luxury. Without leather shoes, an individual is able to concentrate on mourning and the deeper meaning of life. However, exceptions to this rule include pregnant women. and those with ailments of the feet. Aside from those observing shiva or sheloshim, guests and individuals who are not should refrain from wearing leather shoes in the home of mourners as well.
Similar to the idea of wearing leather shoes, hygiene and personal grooming fall under the idea of the task being done for pleasure. Such acts are prohibited during the observation of shiva or sheloshim as they are seen as actions done for physical comfort. However, there is a fine line which separates grooming for hygienic reasons and for comfort. Therefore, in order to prevent grooming for comfort individuals who are mourning are instructed to only bathe separate parts of the body, head, and face. On top of this, cold or cool water is recommended. The use of cosmetics are not allowed as this constitutes as an act done for comfort and pleasure. However, the exception to this rule being a woman who is a bride, engaged to be married, dating to be married, or feels as though the use of makeup is necessary.
"Sitting" shiva refers to the act of sitting on low stools during times of mourning. As mentioned in the Book of Job, upon mourning, Job's friends "sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights". Therefore originally, individuals who were observing a period of mourning were required to turn couches or beds over and sit on the ground. After time, modifications towards this rule were made. The Halakhah states that an individual is required to sit on low stools, or on the floor. The individual partakes in sitting on a low stool in order to signify their lack of concern for personal comfort during their time of mourning.
Place of observance
The best place for the observance of shiva to take place is within the home of the deceased individual. However, if observance in the home of the deceased is not permitted or is unable to be done, the second best place is in the home of a relative close to the deceased. During the observance of shiva, individuals are not permitted to leave the premises, however, there are certain exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include, not having enough room to house every individual observing, the loss of another loved one, and the inability to conduct services in the home. If an individual mourning is allowed to leave the home, they must do so without disturbing others and never alone.
Prayers in the shiva house
Praying in the home of a mourner is done in order to demonstrate respect for the grieving individual as well as the deceased. Even as early as 1790, the Hebra Maarib beZemanah Oheb Shalom was founded in order to provide mourners observing shiva with a minyan. During 1853 in London, the Hebrath Menachem Abelim Hesed Ve Emeth was constructed to accomplish a similar goal. Throughout history, prayers during mourning have been important. However during shiva, the prayers change slightly.
During the process of mourning, Kaddish is typically recited. Rather than losing faith in the religion, Jewish traditions require those who have experienced the loss of a loved one to publicly assert their faith in God. This is typically done in front of a minyan. The recitation of Kaddish is done in order to protect the dignity and merit of the individual who died within God's eyes. Judaism believes that prior to a soul's entry into heaven, a maximum of twelve months is required in order for even the worst soul to be purified. Though the entirety of mourning lasts for twelve months, Kaddish is only recited for eleven months so as to not imply the soul required an entire twelve months of purification.
Traditionally the true mourner's prayer is known as El Maleh Rachamim in Ashkenazi literature and Hashkavah in Sephardic literature. Often times the mourner's prayer is mistaken for Kaddish. The recitation of the mourner's prayer is done for the soul of an individual who has died. The prayer itself is an appeal for the soul of the deceased to be given proper rest. Typically recitation of this prayer is done at the graveside during burial, during the unveiling of the tombstone, as well as at remembrances services during Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret, the final day of Passover, and the final day of Shavuot. If the recitation is done as an individual commemoration, the prayer contains the name of the individual who died. However, if the recitation is done in the presence of a group, the prayer will contain a description of the individual who died.
The recitation of the mourner's prayer is done differently depending on the gender of the one for whom is said.
If the mourner's prayer is recited on behalf of a woman, the following text is recited:
אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים שׁוֹכֵן בַּמְּרוֹמִים, הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה עַל כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים וטְהוֹרִים כְּזוֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ מַזְהִירִים (אֶת נִשְׁמַת (פלוני בן פלוני ,שֶׁהָלַכָה לְעוֹלָמה בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁנָדְבוּ צְדָקָה בְּעַד הַזְכָּרַת נִשְׁמָתה .בְּגַן עֵדֶן תְּהֵא מְנוּחָתה לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים ,יַסְתִּירֵהוּ בְּסֵתֶר כְּנָפָיו לְעוֹלָמִים ,וְיִצְרֹר בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֶת נִשְׁמָתה ה' הוּא נַחֲלָתוֹ, וְיָנוּחַ ,בְּשָׁלוֹם עַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן
God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, give rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the soul of (Hebrew name of deceased) daughter of (Hebrew name of her father), for whom prayer was offered in the memory of her soul. Therefore, the Merciful One will protect her soul forever, and will merge her soul with eternal life. The Everlasting is her heritage, and she shall rest peacefully at her lying place, and let us say: Amen.
If the mourner's prayer is recited on behalf of a man, the following text is recited:
אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים שׁוֹכֵן בַּמְּרוֹמִים, הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה עַל כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים וטְהוֹרִים כְּזוֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ מַזְהִירִים (נִשְׁמַת (פלוני בן פלוני ,שֶׁהָלַךְ לְעוֹלָמוֹ בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁנָדְבוּ צְדָקָה בְּעַד הַזְכָּרַת נִשְׁמָתוֹ .בְּגַן עֵדֶן תְּהֵא מְנוּחָתוֹ לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים ,יַסְתִּירֵהוּ בְּסֵתֶר כְּנָפָיו לְעוֹלָמִים ,וְיִצְרֹר בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֶת נִשְׁמָתוֹ ה' הוּא נַחֲלָתוֹ, וְיָנוּחַ ,בְּשָׁלוֹם עַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן
God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest upon the Divine Presence's wings, within the range of the holy, pure and glorious, whose shining resemble the sky's, to the soul of (Hebrew name of deceased) son of (Hebrew name of his father) for a charity was given to the memory of his soul. Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect him forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie his soul with the rope of life. The Everlasting is his heritage, and he shall rest peacefully upon his lying place, and let us say: Amen.
Minyan during shiva
A minyan is traditionally a quorum of ten or more adult males. Often times in Conservative or Reform communities, a minyan is composed of a mix of ten or more adult males and females. During shiva, a minyan will gather at the home of those in mourning for services. The services are similar to those held at a synagogue. During shiva, however, certain prayers or verses are either added or omitted. During the days that the Torah is read in a synagogue, it is likewise read at the shiva home. An effort is made by the community to lend a Torah scroll to the mourner for this purpose.
Changes in service during mourning
- Addition of Psalm XLIX - Redemption of the Soul (Hebrew: למנצח לבני קרח):p.189 (16:29): twice per day: mornings, also evenings (Sfard) or Mincha (Ashkenaz). On Monday & Thursday mornings (before Torah reading), Erech Apayim is omitted.
- Substitution of Psalm XVI for Psalm XLIX during the omission of Tachanun:p.189 (16:29)
- Omission of Pitum Haketoret 
- Omission of Tachanun and/or Nephilat Appayim:pp.184-185 (16:20)
- Omission of Psalm XX 
- Omission of The Priestly Benediction (Numbers VI:24-26):p.187 (16:25). Likewise Hallel on Rosh Chodesh.:p.188 (16:26
- Omission of the six Psalms before Friday night services:p.267 (28:6)
- Omission of Psalm XC: 17 verse: "And let the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us: establish thou also upon us the work of our hands, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it"
- Lamm, Maurice (1969). The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning. Middle Village, N.Y.: Jonathan David Publishers. ISBN 0-8246-0126-2.
- Rabinowicz, Harry (1964). A Guide to Life — Jewish Laws and Customs of Mourning. London: Jewish Chronicle Publications. p. 57.
- Kaye, Terry; Cutter, William, eds. (1992). The Jewish Mourner's Handbook. Behrman House. ISBN 978-0-87441-528-5 – via Jewish Cemetery, Burial and Mourning Customs, Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts.
- "Mourner Observances". shiva.com. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Blech, Rabbi Benjamin (August 31, 2012). "Rent-a-mourner and other intimate life services for hire". J Weekly. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Lieberman, Joshua (1946). Peace of Mind. ISBN 9780671202989.
- Amos 8:10
- Genesis 50:10
- Job 2:13
- Leviticus 10:19
- "The Stages of Mourning in Judaism". Chabad.org. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Goldstein, Zalman. "The Periods of Mourning". Chabad.org. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Klein, Isaac (1979). A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice. Ktav Publishing House. p. 278. ISBN 978-0873340045.
- Kolatch, Alfred (1989). The Jewish Book of Why: The Torah. NY: Jonathan David Publishers. ISBN 978-0824604547.
- Kolatch, Alfred (1995). The Second Jewish Book of Why. NY: Jonathan David Publishers. ISBN 978-0824603052.
- Goldberg, Rabbi Chaim Binyamin (1991). Mourning in Halachah. ArtScroll. ISBN 0-89906-171-0.
- "Shiva" (PDF). Oheb Shalom. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Kitsur SA 205:7
- "Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Kethuboth - Folio 103a". Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Proverbs 20:27.
- Seltzer, Nachman (2010). A Moment in Time. Hamodia/Feldheim. ISBN 978-1-59826-636-8.
- "Moed Katan 15b". Sefaria.org. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Y.D. 380.1 and 382.1.
- Ibid 375:1, 376:4, 382:1 Bet Yosef.
- Y.D. 382.2.
- Orach Chayyim 614.3.
- Shulhan Arukh 382:2.
- Levy, Yamin (2003). Journey Through Grief. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 98. ISBN 0-88125-802-4.
- Y.D. 381.6.
- Rabinowicz, Harry (1964). A Guide to Life — Jewish Laws and Customs of Mourning. London: Jewish Chronicle Publications. p. 60.
- Levy, Yamin (2003). Journey Through Grief. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 98. ISBN 0-88125-802-4.
- "A Guide to Jewish Mourning Laws and Practices" (PDF). Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Levy, Yamin (2003). Journey Through Grief. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 97. ISBN 0-88125-802-4.
- Roth, Cecil (1950). The History of the Great Synagogue. p. 61. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Wyatt, Jean (2015). The Judge Is the Savior: Towards a Universalist Understanding of Salvation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 168–169. ISBN 9781625648174.
- Eisenberg, Ronald L. "El Maleh Rahamim". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Eisenberg, Ronald L. (2004). The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions (A JPS Desk Reference). The Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 978-0827607606.
- "Kel Maleh Rachamim (Prayer of Mercy)". Shiva.com. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
- Keritot 6a. pp. 219–220.
- Ibid. pp. 75–76.
- Ibid. p. 370.