What is shiva and how long does it last?
July 12th, 2020
Shiva means seven, so how long it lasts is baked into the name. It's a 7-day period of mourning. It begins at burial, which is counted as the first day. People come to the home of the mourners so that they can say prayers. Certain prayers require a minyan, which means a group of 10 people (at least 10) and in order to say those prayers the community will come to the house of the mourner so that they can say the prayers. One of the prayers that requires a group of at least 10 people (minyan) is the Mourners Kaddish. You don't say that prayer alone; there are certain moments that require community. The community comes so that they mourners are able to do the prayers of mourning and they also just as importantly are there to comfort and care for the mourners. The idea for those 7 days is that you stay close to home and the community comes to you. They bring you food and gather round you for prayer and also to share stories and raise up the memory of the one who has died. For seven days, you stay in the home and people come to care for you there. On the morning of the seventh day you do a walk around the block to symbolically re-enter the world.
During this COVID time people are gathering for Shiva minayanim via zoom. And though it is not the same as being in person, it is quite powerful to comfort the mourners in this way.
The following 30 days are called shloshim, which means 30. During this period, you venture out of your home and back into the world, but you're still in this first period of mourning and you're not required to go to festive events or celebrations. While you're in the world, you're still cocooned in this 30-day period. And the period after is the 1 year marker and you say the Kaddish prayer for that year. At the end of that year, you say the Kaddish prayer and mark the memory of your loved one at their Yahrzeit, the anniversary of when they died. In the mourning process we have the 7 day, 30 day, and 1 year cycle
July 20th, 2020
There's a fundamental understanding that G-d gives and G-d takes away and in G-d's name we pray. That's what we say when we experience grief and when we are grieving we can't just continue. So the tradition creates ritual to honor what we're going through and to reassure us that there's a path from devastation to healing, and shiva is one of those pathways. In shiva, we stop. We don't do anything, and the community comes and takes care of us.
Jewish Death Over DinnerSeptember 13th, 2020
For one week after burial, we “sit shiva.” Shiva is the number seven in Hebrew. For seven days following a death, those closest to the deceased sit at home and welcome visitors who come to comfort the mourners. The focus is on telling stories to remember the person who has died.
Among the customs of shiva, it is customary to cover the mirrors in a house of mourning, to remove the distraction of reflecting on the self, in order to focus on the work of mourning and remembering. In some liberal communities, shiva is observed for 3 days.