For those people of the Jewish faith, shiva is a very important time. In the immediate aftermath of a Jewish person’s death, Shiva is a week-long period of mourning for those family members who were closest to the person. Shiva is held inside the home of the person’s family, and it is used as a time for friends and neighbors to pay a visit and pay their respects. Each shiva is different, as some families are in deep mourning and do not wish to speak with those who come to visit, while others are ready to welcome visitors in with open arms to share stories of the deceased.
Shiva is a custom that is still followed by many Jewish people throughout the United States and it is important to understand what it is for those people.
If you attend a shiva, it’s imperative that you be respectful at all times. You should dress appropriately for the occasion and potentially bring a meal or flowers for those who are in mourning. If you suspect that your kids might not be ready to handle a shiva, you should leave them at home so that you can focus on comforting the family members who are grieving. You should also be prepared to follow certain customs when you enter a shiva house. For example, some shiva homes will place a pitcher of water outside of the front door since it is customary to wash your hands after you have visited a cemetery in the Jewish culture.
You may make several observations when you enter a shiva home. All of the mirrors in the home may be covered. Additionally, the chairs that the grieving family members are sitting in may be stripped of their cushioning. These are also shiva customs that are being followed. Mirrors are covered to symbolically represent the absence of any vanity or self-indulgence in a shiva home, while the barebones seating is meant to be a nod to the olden days when sitting on the ground while in mourning was the custom.
As you prepare to leave a shiva home, you should always offer to come back in the near future to spend time with the grieving family once shiva has ended. It can be really hard for those in mourning to get back to living their everyday lives, so you will likely be met with a smile and an open invitation to come back once shiva is over. You will be doing your part to help the family both now and in the future.
Rabbi Richard Polirer can help those families who are in mourning with all of the funeral services they will need. Call me at 954-234-4153 today to schedule services right away.