Following the funeral (read what to expect at a Jewish funeral) the close relatives (parents, siblings, spouse, and children) of the deceased “sit shiva” (Hebrew for “seven”) for the next seven days.

During this time of intense grief, they don’t groom themselves, work, or engage in pleasurable activities. Instead, they focus on their loss and are comforted by visitors.

This can be traced to the Bible where we read that Joseph declared seven days of mourning after the burial of his father, Jacob.1

The Shiva Home

The mourners typically gather in a single home to observe shiva together. This is often the home of the deceased. Since they’ll be praying there (instead of going to synagogue), this is considered to be a great merit for the departed.

Read how to prepare the home for shiva and about the shiva prayer services

The Mourner

For the duration of shiva, the mourners do not cut their hair, wear fresh clothing, enjoy music or group activities, engage in conjugal relations, wear leather shoes, apply lotions, or even study Torah (except for certain sections). Instead of sitting on chairs or couches, they sit on low stools.

Read more details pertaining to the mourner

Shiva Visits

It is a great mitzvah to visit friends and relatives who are sitting shiva. It is appropriate for visitors to remain silent until the mourner acknowledges their presence and starts a conversation. Before leaving, it is customary to say: May the Almighty comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

A major component of shiva is the prayer service, during which the mourners recite the kaddish memorial prayer for the deceased.

Read what to expect (and how to act) at a shiva call

How Long Is Shiva?

The day of the funeral is counted as the first day of shiva, and even a small portion of day seven is sufficient. so if the funeral was on Wednesday, shiva will end on Tuesday morning.

Read about the last day of shiva

Visible mourning practices are suspended during Shabbat, so the mourner should wash, don Shabbat finery and attend synagogue as usual. Major Jewish holidays can terminate shiva altogether (read when and how that works).

Explore More:

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning

The Jewish Mourner’s Companion