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The painstaking loss of a loved one is a tough blow. Sitting Shiva (see our Shiva section) helps ease the pain, but not completely. Our holy Torah(d’rabanan) tells us that that we actually need 30 complete days (from the burial) in order to properly mourn in the loss of a loved one.( We have a biblical verse, in which it says regarding a non-jewish woman taken captive during war “And she will cry for the loss of her father and mother for a month” (Devarim 21:13). From here we learn that a person needs to mourn (at least some of the laws) for a month.)
Why 30 days? The Hebrew calendar is predicated on the lunar cycle, and 30 days is the amount of time that a person’s emotions can run the full spectrum. Just as the moon changes from invisibility at the beginning of the month, becomes fully visible and disappears again at the end of 30 days, so too, a person’s emotions change on a similar spectrum.
At 30 days, the mourner loses the status as a mourner, and resumes his or her normal activities. Notably, for the death of a parent, some laws of mourning remain for one full year.(Rema YD 390:4, Shulchan Aruch 391:2).
First Order of Priorities:
One should understand the basic laws of Shloshim.
Basic Laws of Shloshim
Who is a Mourner – Jewish law considers the following to be mourners.
One who lost a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, or husband/wife (YD 374:4). When one of those seven die, the surviving relative (if he or she is at least 13 or 12 years old) becomes a mourner.
Grooming – (The pasuk in Job (while he was mourning the death of his children) says “do not anoint me” our sages include washing in the category of anointing. Thus it is forbidden to wash for pleasure) Washing is seen as a pleasurable activity, thus, it is prohibited during Shiva. Specifically, washing the whole body even with cold water, or parts of the body with warm water is seen as a pleasurable activity, but washing parts of the body with cold water is not (Shulchan Aruch YD 381:1). Thus, if one needs to clean himself, they should apply this method. It should be noted that only washing for pleasure is forbidden, therefore if one is soiled or is infested with lice or if a person has a “delicate” nature, whereby not washing would cause him/her significant emotional stress, then it would be permitted to wash in the normal manner. (YD 381:1,3). Regarding Shloshim there is a dispute whether one may wash one’s whole body in cold water or not. (Rema 381:1).
Haircuts – (We learn that cutting hair and fingernails are forbidden for 30 days from the biblical verse “Your hair must not become wild” (Vayikra 10:6). i.e., you must cut your hair. Hashem told Aharon Hakohen and his remaining 2 sons after the death of their 2 sons/bothers (Nadav and Avihu) that because they were involved in the service of the tabernacle that they must cut their hair. This implies that other mourners are forbidden (rabbinically) to cut their hair. We also learn that just like a regular Nazarite is forbidden to cut his hair for 30 days, and also mourners are forbidden to cut their hair for 30 days (Mo’ed Katan 19b). Haircuts are prohibited during Shiva week and Shloshim.(YD 390:1) This applies even to taking a haircut for Shabbos.(For the death of a mother and father, one must wait for three months have passed from the death. However, if his friends tell him that he should get a haircut, he can take a haircut before three months. Rema 390:4 -
Shaving – Shaving follows the same laws as haircuts. One may however trim his moustache after Shiva if it blocks the entry of food.(YD 390:1) Notably, some Halachic authorities permit shaving even during Shiva, while others forbid even all throughout Shloshim.)
Trimming Nails – The mourner may not trim his or her nails during Shiva week and Shloshim.(YD 390:7) (but to trim them with ones fingers or to bite them off is permitted during Shiva)
Marriage – It is forbidden to marry within Shloshim (YD 392:1) (however if a man has not fulfilled the commandment of having children-a boy and a girl-then he may get married during shloshim, Likewise if a man has young children at home and has no one to look after them, he also may marry during shloshim although the consummation of the marriage must occur after shloshim) (392:2)
Simchas (Parties) – It is forbidden to attend social parties during Shloshim (a mourner of a father or mother may not attend social parties for 12 months – even if it is a leap year)(391:2)
Laundering – (The pasuk says regarding Job “…and he (Job) said to her please mourn with me and dress in mourners clothes.” From here we learn that “mourner’s clothes” are those that are not laundered or ironed.) The mourner may not launder or wear laundered clothes (also bed linen) during shiva.(YD 389:1) In honor of the Sabbath, however, a laundered shirt may be worn. Separately, if the mourner soiled his clothes, he can wash that particular spot.(or wash the garment in water only) If this is not possible, he can use a different garment (Gesher ha’Chayim 21:10,11, Pischei Teshuvah 389:2) (After Shiva, i.e during shloshim, it is permitted to wash and iron clothing in the normal manner; however to wear clothing that were laundered during shloshim some permit this only if another person would wear the garment first for a short while (if this is impracticable then the garment should be placed on the ground) and then the mourner may wear the garment. Others forbid this. However if the garment was washed in water only then the mourner is permitted to wear the garment during shloshim without the need for anyone else to wear the garment first. Soiled under garments (e.g underwear,vests etc) may be washed (if there are no clean ones) and worn even during shiva.
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