Jewish traditions, rituals and customs, surviving through the millennia.
For centuries Jewish people have practiced customs and rituals that pay homage to the deceased, and help mourners cope during the intense period of grieving following a death.
Today, families choose to honor the memory of loved ones in a variety of ways. Some customs that have survived through the millennia include:
Condolence Calls–Condolence calls are a Mitzvah. By visiting the mourners, friends and family show that they recognize, understand and share in their sorrow. This time should be spent speaking of the deceased and reflecting on special memories.
Covering Mirrors–Mourners cover mirrors in the house of mourning as a symbol of humility and self-denial.
Kaddish–This Aramaic prayer affirms God’s precious gift of life. Mourners recite this prayer daily starting on the day of burial and continuing for eleven months.
Kriah–During the seven days of Shiva, mourners tear a piece of their clothing, or wear a cut black ribbon (kriah) to symbolize their loved one being torn from the circle of family love.
K’vurah–The turning of earth onto a casket is considered an honor. Those attending a burial may be invited to shovel earth onto the casket.
Shiva–In observance of Shiva, the first seven days of intensive mourning after burial, mourners traditionally remain at home and express their grief by sitting on low stools, not wearing leather shoes and not washing or shaving. Many families choose to “sit Shiva” for a shorter time.
Shloshim–During Shloshim, the first thirty days after the funeral, mourners traditionally refrain from socializing but still attend civic or religious functions.
Unveiling of the Memorial–The unveiling can take place at any time. Custom suggests that a memorial be erected anytime after the Shloshim, but preferably before the end of the first year.
Washing Hands–It is customary for mourners to wash their hands upon leaving the cemetery as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.