The study of Torah is not permitted during shiva, for it is considered a source of profound delight. As the Bible itself expresses it, "The laws of God are righteous and rejoice the heart." It becomes not only a source of joy, but a means of distraction to the mourner sunk in despair. Such enjoyment, even from a holy source such as Torah study, is prohibited during the initial mourning period. Thus, while the bereaved may not study the Bible and the Prophets, the Talmud and the Midrash, he may read the book of Job, the story of the classic mourner. He may also read the poetry of anguish, the book of Lamentations (that is read on the ninth of Av, when we commemorate the Temple's destruction), and also parts of Jeremiah that foretell doom. He may also read the laws of mourning and study books on ethical behavior.

However (and this is so very characteristic of the Jewish tradition of Torah learning), he should not study these in depth, for he may discover new understanding or glean new insights into the complex byways of talmudic logic, and this would bring him the sublime joy so well-known to those who have experienced the deep pleasures of scholarship.

An interesting exception to this law is cited in the Jerusalem Talmud which says that one who has an unquenchable desire to study may do so. But, the question is posed: The purpose of the prohibition is to deny the mourner the delight of learning which this man, who yearns for such study, will surely derive; should it certainly not be prohibited? The answer offered is that the exception is made for this man as it is made for one who might become ill from observing the laws of mourning and who is, therefore, exempt from these laws! The law forbids pleasure; it does not command pain. The Talmud recognized that it is entirely possible that the one who so deeply yearns to study may become physically ill when he is prevented from doing so. In such a case, it ruled, he is permitted to study.

Further, the question arose as to whether a scholar who finds a new interpretation, and is excited with his discovery, may put it into writing. The simple reply must be that writing is not a permissible form of work to the mourner, just as it is not permissible chol ha'moed, the intermediary days of Passover and Succot. However, in regard to writing down new insights into Torah, it is equated with a man who, normally forbidden to go to business during shiva, is permitted to do so if he will otherwise experience an irretrievable financial loss. By being prohibited from writing, the idea may be forgotten, and it is, therefore, considered an irretrievable loss.

"How goodly are thy tents, 0 Jacob, thy study halls, 0 Israel!" We should be constantly amazed at the rich tradition to which we are heir, and chagrined by its gross neglect in our times. Can such glorification of the mind and soul be found on any page of world literature? Are there Boswells sufficient to chronicle the biographies of so many poverty-stricken laborers who yearned for study? Are there historians wise enough to analyze the magnificent consolation the Torah brought to a people willing to endure any deprivation, even death itself, for its sake?

From the laws of mourning we catch a glimpse into the eternal law of Jewish life-the love of Torah.

May the mourner teach, if that is his profession? As indicated above, one who is needed to teach a group of people Torah, when there is no one to replace him, may continue to teach during shiva. Likewise, one may teach youngsters, if there is no other qualified teacher available, even on the very first day of mourning.

It is not permitted to keep students from study, even if the mourning laws must be temporarily suspended. Also, one who is accustomed to teach his own children should not sacrifice seven days of Torah study, but continue to teach them during Shiva. While the mourner may teach in such circumstances, he should do so in as inconspicuous a fashion as possible, and should make some noticeable change of style which, while perhaps insignificant in itself, will convey the fact that he is making an exception to the laws of mourning.