Sitting Shiva

HOW TO SIT SHIVA IN JEWISH TRADITION

The week following a loved one’s funeral, the closest family members stay at the Shiva location each day. They will also avoid working or other social events to mourn their loss without distractions.

As the week progresses, other relatives and close friends will offer their sympathies and gifts like meat platters, candy, fruits, and so on. Together, they’ll often recite the Mourner’s Kaddish and the Prayer of Mercy, two traditional prayers aimed at honoring those who have passed away. 

A standard fixture in most Jewish homes during this time is a single Shiva candle burning continuously throughout the week to respect the person who passed. You often see a water pitcher to cleanse your hands before entering the Shiva space. Mourners also usually wear black, including pinning a black fabric to their chests handed out by a rabbi or cantor at the funeral. 

If you aren’t familiar with Jewish customs, one thing that will stand out in some homes is that mourners cover every mirror in the house. This time is meant for strict mourning, and mourners will ignore their physical appearance during these seven days as another way to focus on grieving. Those grieving may also sit on low stools representing their profound grief and sorrow for losing their loved one. 

Most family members are expected to observe Shiva. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, emergency service workers are exempt due to the nature of their job. Additionally, anyone going through economic hardship can be excused from the ritual.

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