It is a sacred obligation to hold daily services during shiva in the house of the deceased, whether the death occurred there or elsewhere. This is done in order to honor the dead and to show respect for the bereaved.

It is important to hold public services in the presence of a minyan so that the mourners observing shiva may recite the Kaddish, which requires the attendance of ten adult males. We, thereby, demonstrate respect for the bereaved, as well as honor for the deceased.

Significantly, however, it is considered by many to be more important to hold services in the house of the deceased if he left no mourners, and when Kaddish need not be recited, and shiva is not observed. The Talmud (Shabbat 152b) records that Rabbi Judah the Prince gathered a minyan to accompany him on a condolence visit to the house of one who died in the neighborhood and left no mourners. After shiva, Rabbi Judah saw the deceased in a dream and learned from him that he was comforted and set at ease because of the presence of the minyan.

Therefore, if there are two deaths that have occurred in a community that can provide but one minyan, and one of the deceased left mourners, whereas the other did not, the service should be held in the house of the deceased who is not mourned.

The Mourner and the Minyan

  1. If the mourners can borrow a Torah Scroll, they should do so, but must provide for it a clean and honorable place in the home. It will be read at each service on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays (mornings or afternoons, when the mourners prefer to pray at home).

  2. Services need not be held in the home if the deceased was a child of less than one year of age. In places where such services are held, however, they are held solely in honor of the bereaved, so that they may remain at home during shiva.

  3. The male mourner himself is counted as part of the minyan.

  4. The mourner may lead the service himself. Although some local customs discourage this, the weight of scholarly opinion urges the mourner to do this.

  5. If no minyan can be gathered, should the bereaved leave the house of shiva to attend services with the congregation, or should they pray at home? While there has been rabbinic controversy regarding this matter, much depends on the commitment of the mourner in observing the shiva. If leaving the home for services will tempt him to engage in other activities while he is out-of-doors, it is better that he not attend public services. If, however, he will not abuse this leniency, the mourner should not be deprived of the privilege of reciting the Kaddish and praying with a minyan. However, he should first make every effort to secure a minyan at home for both morning and evening services. If this is not possible, the minyan should be secured at least for either the morning or evening service only, and he can then attend the synagogue for the other service. Failing this, he should keep in mind the requirements of shiva, and should go to the nearest synagogue for services, both morning and evening. At the synagogue, he should not sit in his regular seat so as to indicate some change in his personal status during mourning.

Changes In The Order Of The Service

Following are several changes in the order of service that pertain to the entire minyan when it is held in the house of the mourner.

Daily Services

Tachanun is not said; el erech apayim, lamenatzeiach, and va'ani zot briti are not said. Titkkabel, in the full Kaddish recitation, is not said, according to some usage. Many local customs do require its recitation.

Hodu before the minchah service should not be recited by the mourner. The Sabbath eve service should begin with mizmor shir le'yom ha-shabbat, omitting lechu neranenah and the introductory Psalms. Birchat me'en sheva is not recited. Shalom aleichem should not be recited at the table, but zemirot may be sung.

Sabbath Morning Services

The mourner may not recite an aliyah (the call to recite the blessing over the Torah). During weekdays, he must refuse the honor even after having been called publicly. On the Sabbath he must avoid receiving the honor even though he be a Kohen or a Levi, but if there is no other person available, or he is mistakenly called, he should accept the honor. His refusal of an aliyah on the Sabbath would be considered public mourning which is forbidden. The mourner may be called, however, to raise or tie the Torah, or to remove and replace it in the Holy Ark, even on weekdays.

If the mourner was dangerously ill and has recovered, he may recite the blessing of gratitude, the birchat ha-gomel, before the entire minyan, but without receiving an aliyah. Av harachamim is recited at this home service.

Sabbath Minchah Services

Tzidkat'cha is recited, although it is the equivalent of tachanun which is omitted on the weekday, and va'ani tefilati is omitted.

Conclusion of the Sabbath

Vi'yehi noam is not recited, according to some customs ; ve'yiten should be recited; havdalah should begin from the blessings themselves, omitting the introduction, hineh, if the mourner recites it himself.

On holidays, if the mourner is a Kohen, he should not participate in the Priestly Blessing, but should leave the minyan prior to its recital.


The hallel is not chanted in the house of mourning because it speaks of joy, which is not consonant with mourning, and because it includes the phrase, "The dead shall not praise Thee," which is considered a mockery of the deceased when it is recited during the shiva in the house of mourning. A consensus of rabbinic opinion observes the following guidelines with reference to the recitation of hallel in the house of mourning

1. On Rosh Chodesh: If the service is held in the house of the deceased, hallel should not be recited at the service proper, but the individuals may recite it in their own homes. If it is held in the house of the mourner which is not the house of the deceased, the mourner should absent himself while the remainder of the minyan recites the hallel.

2. On Hanukkah and other holidays : All the members of the minyan must recite hallel individually after the service, if they have not already done so. Likewise, if hallel is to be said on a holiday which is coincident with the last day of shiva (when at the conclusion of services the shiva terminates), hallel should not be recited at the service proper, but everyone must recite it later, individually.

Avinu malkenu, during the Ten Days of Repentance, should be recited.

Psalm 49 is recited after every morning and evening service in the house of mourning. Some traditions urge this recitation also after the minchah service. On days on which tachanun is not recited, Psalm 16 is sometimes substituted. On Sabbath, chol ha'moed, and Purim this Psalm, too, is omitted.

(Click here for text — in Hebrew, transliteration and translation — of Psalm 49)