Fall River Jewish Home

Explaining Shiva to Non-Jewish Friends

Residents of all faiths call our community home. That diversity gives residents and families the opportunity to learn more about religious beliefs that are different than theirs. One area we frequently receive questions about relates to a fundamental ritual of Judaism called shiva.

Shiva is a week-long period of mourning for first-degree relatives following the death of a loved one. It begins immediately following the burial and concludes after the mourning service on the seventh day. A shiva typically takes place in the home of the deceased or a family member.

What Takes Place during Shiva?

Some of the traditional rituals of shiva include:

  • Mourners do not work during a period of shiva.
  • Mirrors in the home may be covered to symbolize that mourners are not concerned with their personal appearance. Women may refrain from wearing make-up and men may not shave.
  • Mourners may sit on a box or low stool as a way of demonstrating grief.
  • A candle will burn in the home for the seven days of shiva.
  • Mourners will traditionally wear a torn black ribbon, known as a keriah, on their clothing to symbolize the tear in their heart.
  • Shiva food is typically prepared and sent by friends and neighbors.
  • Jewish prayer services are typically held each day and non-Jewish friends are welcome to attend.
  • Flowers are not considered a part of this Jewish ritual.
  • The family may take a walk around the neighborhood when shiva is concluded to symbolize returning to the community.
  • It is tradition not to greet people in a shiva house and not to speak until one of the mourners has spoken to you.
  • Most people who visit mourners during shiva should stay only 20 to 30 minutes and never more than one hour.

Above all, keep in mind that this period of mourning is a time to comfort the family of the loved one.

We’re here to answer questions and help you make the best decision for care for you or your loved one. We invite you to reach out and talk with one of our care specialists at Fall River Jewish Home today! CALL 1.508.679.6172, where assistance is just a phone call away. 

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