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Shiva

(The biblical verse says “I will overturn your festivals into mourning†(Amos 8:10) We learn from here that, just like a festival (Peasach/Sukkot) is 7 days, so too mourning is for 7 days.

Can you imagine, never formally putting aside time to reflect on the death of a loved one? Failure to do so could result in years of discomfort, because one was never able to “deal†with the death. Fortunately, our Holy Torah has prescribed an antidote – Shiva.

Commencing immediately after the funeral, Shiva marks a seven-day mourning period. Shiva is the time in which a Mes is allowed to be mourned. He or she stays in the house, wallows in his or her loss and contemplates the death of his/her loved one, as members of the community pay visits, Shiva Calls.

While it may sound morbid, Shiva week is a tremendous outlet for the mourner, who has pent up anguish and sadness. By confronting death related issues directly, the mourner during Shiva week is able to exhaust many “issues†or concerns that emerged, as a result of the death, and deal directly with the situation.

Duration of Shiva

Shiva marks a seven-day mourning period – beginning precisely at burial (after the body has been covered with earth; some say until the grave has been filled with earth) (YD 375:1), and ending after the morning prayer service on the seventh day (and consolers left – 393:1). In counting a day, we count a partial day as a whole day, and the duration of Shiva is 7 days from and including the day of the burial. The exact end time is after the Mourner has completed the morning service of day 7 and consolers have left.

Location of Shiva

Where a person’s spirit rests, is where the Shiva should be observed. As such, all of the relatives should come to this house and observe Shiva there. Why? With a person’s memorabilia present, and other related items, it is easier for the mourner to personify the deceased, and articulate his or her feelings.

That said, logistically, it is often impossible for the mourners to travel thousands of miles to the home of the deceased. Thus, they are to sit Shiva in their own home.

Preparing the House for the Shiva

Candles — Candles should be lit as soon as the mourners return from the cemetery. These candles should last for a full seen days.

Candles are present at meaningful events in Judaism. Whether for the holidays, Sabbath or for other events, lighting candles is a common theme. So too, during Shiva we light a candle signifying the death of the human being. While the body has passed over, our candle reminds us that soul lives on and continues its journey, as well as providing comfort to the deceased.

Where To Light Candle – It should be lit wherever people are observing Shiva.

Type of Candle – It is preferable to olive oil, but if not, then a traditional wick and flame is fine. In the event that these are unavailable, one can use an electric light.

Number of Candles – One is enough for the whole family

When to Light Candle – One lights upon returning from the cemetery.

Lighting for Shabbos – While we do not mourn (publicly) on Shabbos, the candle should burn even through Shabbos.

Mirrors — During Shiva week all mirrors are covered. (Pnei Baruch10:4). Mirrors are the symbol of vanity in our modern culture. We spend hundreds of hours each year in front of the mirror, focusing on our image and beauty. This is obviously inappropriate during Shiva week, in which a death has just occurred, and we are removed from social pressures. By covering the mirrors, this shifts the mourners focus from himself to the deceased. Another reason is that ones reflection causes simcha. Lastly, we cover the mirrors because in Jewish law it is forbidden to worship an image. By leaving up mirrors in the midst of the prayer services, people’s reflections could be shown in the mirror, and this could undermine Jewish law (Mishnah Berurah 90:71). Some are accustomed to cover pictures of people as well (Pnei Baruch 10:4)

Benches or Chairs – One should gather chairs and benches for the visitors during Shiva week, and for the services

Prayer Books – One should have enough prayer books to meet the needs of the prayer service that is conducted from the house. Often one can obtain these from the local synagogue or local Gemach, lending organization.

Torah Scroll – The mourner should obtain a Torah scroll, which will be read as part of the service on Mondays, Thursdays and Shabbat..

Stool – The mourner sits on a stool during the Shiva week, in order to stay low to the ground and revel in the loss.

Please consult with your local orthodox Rabbi for a complete list.

Disclaimer

The articles are not meant to be halachic rulings, so please contact a posek regarding your situation. Our website is intended to be a helpful guide, but for everything contained in the articles, or to the extent that we inadvertantly made a mistake on one of the articles, please contact your local Orthodox Rabbi regarding it.