Mourning - Jewish mourning

Find out how a Jewish person is prepared for burial and how their mourners are expected to behave during the mourning period.

Alex Zilich

 © Australian Museum

The first seven days after and including the burial date is called shiva. The immediate family mourners shouldn't work or cook or do other normal activities. The mourner should not wear leather shoes, perfume or jewellery, except on the Sabbath. In the house of mourning, the mirrors are covered, to avoid seeing a grieving face. For the next 23 days, the mourner can resume most activities, but should not visit the cemetery to avoid excessive grieving. For the period up to 12 months after death, mourners should not partake of any entertainment, dancing, listening to music and so on. Alex Zilich, Manager, Sydney Chevra Kadisha

Jewish burial garments

The Chevra Kadisha (holy society) is a funeral director service for Jews. The body is brought to the facility immediately after death. A Jewish person must remain with the body until burial. The people carrying out the Tahara (ritual washing and preparing of the deceased) must be the same sex as the deceased.

The body is washed with warm water and detergent and the nails cleaned. The deceased is either immersed in a mikveh (ritual bath) or the body is elevated and a quantity of water is poured on the head in a continuous motion to flow over the whole body.

The shroud is made out of pure white cotton - seven pieces for a man, and ten for a woman. There must be no knots, because knots hold the soul back at the time of the resurrection. Soil from Israel is placed on the eyes, heart and hands. Finally a narrow piece of fabric, a sash, is tied around the waist with a knot forming three letters (a shin) representing God's name.


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