The first stage of mourning is called Aninut, and the mourner is called an Onain. Loosely translated, the word Onain means one who is in "deep distress."

The Onain must stop what he or she is doing when he learns that a close relative has passed away, and occupy himself solely with arranging for a proper Jewish burial.

Since the Torah requires the burial to take place as quickly as possible, an Onain is exempt from all positive mitzvot requiring action (i.e. prayer, Tefillin, blessings before and after eating, etc.), until the burial is completed. All prohibitions (i.e. "do not..." ) remain in full effect.

When Others See to the Arrangements

Today, the Chevra Kaddisha (Jewish Burial Society) takes care of the entire burial process. Thus once the deceased is given over to their care, some authorities do not restrict the Onain from performing mitzvot. However, most authorities maintain that one is still not required to do so until after the burial. Consult a competent rabbi for guidance.

Forbidden Activities

The following activities are forbidden to an Onain:

  • Working and/or engaging in business

  • Showering or bathing

  • Using cosmetics, lotions, oils, and perfumes

  • Having marital relations

  • Attending joyous events (weddings, parties, etc.)

  • Greeting people (i.e. "Hello," "How are you" )

  • Cutting hair or shaving

  • Eating a regular meal at a table

  • Eating meat or drinking wine, or other strong drink

  • Reciting the blessings before and after eating

  • Studying Torah (except the laws of mourning and works that promote repentance).

  • An Onain cannot be counted for a Minyan (a quorum for prayer services). For exceptions, consult a competent rabbi.

  • If one is not in the same city as the deceased and hears of the passing by phone, and there are others to see to the burial needs locally, he is not considered an Onain until he arrives for the funeral. Otherwise, he begins mourning once the burial is completed. In either case he is not permitted to don Tefillin until after the burial.

  • Since one must close his business when he is in mourning, he may temporarily sell it to a friend (if closing the business will cause him great financial harm). Consult a competent rabbi who specializes in the area of Jewish law.

  • A Brit Milah (circumcision of a child) is not postponed until after the burial, and an Onain may even be the Sandek (one who holds the baby during the circumcision). A Pidyon Haben (redemption of the firstborn son) is postponed until after the burial.

On Shabbat and Jewish Holidays

  • On Shabbat and Jewish holidays (or if the passing occurred late Friday afternoon), one may eat meat and drink wine and fulfill all the other mitzvot of Shabbat and the holiday, since mourning is forbidden on these days. However, he must observe aspects of mourning in private (i.e. he cannot study Torah, or have marital relations). At the conclusion of Shabbat, he does not pray the Maariv (evening) service, not does he recite the Havdallah prayer. It is recited later, following the burial, over beer or another permitted beverage, and only the final blessing of Hamavdil is recited.

  • If the passing occurred on Rosh Hashana, he does not become an Onain and must hear the blowing of the Shofar.

  • If the passing occurred on the holiday of Sukkot, one may eat in the Sukkah and make Kiddush (if no one else can make it for him), as well as fulfill the mitzva of the Lulav and Etrog.

  • If the passing occurred on the holiday of Chanuka, one appoints a messenger to kindle the Menora for him. If there is no one available, he may light it himself without a blessing.

  • If the passing occurred on the day leading into (Erev) Purim, one should hear the Megilla that night. If it was during Purim day, one should hear the Megilla following the burial.

  • If the passing occurred on the evening prior to Passover, one appoints a messenger to search for the Chometz (leaven), but he must nullify the Chometz himself.

  • During the Omer counting (between Passover and Shavuot), one should count without a blessing and resume counting with a blessing after the burial. If possible, he should hear the blessing from another person and answer Amen.

  • If the passing occurred on the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av), one must fast, but one is not required to attend the synagogue for the Kinnot (dirges).