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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Shiva Visitors, How to Behave When Trying to Comfort a Mourner

As I find myself sitting shiva, in the Jewish mode of mourning for the second time in three months, I'd like to say a few things.

First of all, the Halachot, Jewish Laws of Mourning are the most humane and psychologically brilliant of any society or religion.

In short, totally laymen's terms:

  • The mourner, who is a child of, spouse, sibling or parent of the dead should be cared for.
  • The mourner is not supposed to shop, cook, clean (even bathe except for certain conditions) or entertain/serve food.
  • Visitors and "helpers" are supposed to make sure the mourner has sufficient food etc.
  • The word "shiva" means "seven," and, unless a Jewish Holiday interrupts the seven days, the mourner observes seven days of mourning/shiva.
The mourner is expected to mourn. In Hebrew we use the term "comforter" for "shiva visitor." A "shiva visitor" is not a guest. The mourner is not supposed to host/feed/entertain. And the "shiva visitor" is not supposed to cheer up or entertain the mourner with his/her own stories, jokes, news reports etc. A "shiva visitor" is only supposed to speak when spoken to by the mourner. Yes, even if you find yourself rather " ignored,"this isn't a matter of your ego.

Quite often the mourner will have pictures of the dead person to show those who came to comfort. It's generally acceptable to ask something about them, about the dead person. But if your question is ignored, don't press for an answer. Don't change the subject. Follow the lead of the mourner. 

Since the mourner isn't supposed to cook/shop/prepare food, it's common in Jewish communities to share and assign these responsibilities and also make sure that the mourner is not alone at home. When only one member of the family, or not all of the family, is sitting shiva, then other family members try to do the helping. This can be shared with the neighbors. Here in Shiloh, there's generally a neighbor in charge to make sure that each day and each meal is covered. When a large family is sitting shiva, then those two responsibilities are split. 

If you have any questions or additions, please add in the comments, thanks.

Here are a couple of articles that may help you:


Miryam said...

Thank you Batya for helping people who (fortunately) have little experience paying shiva calls. Even for those who have more experience, it never hurts to be reminded of certain things.

John S said...

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.

They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Thank you for your explanation of shiva. God will never leave His mourners alone Batya.

Batya Medad said...