There are three steps of mourning, to assist in ultimately returning to a ‘new normality’ without our loved one – this is the first week (shiva), the first month (shloshim) and the first year (consecration and first yahrzeit).
The first, most intense stage of mourning is called shiva, a Hebrew word meaning “seven”. It refers to the seven-day period of formalized mourning by the immediate family of the deceased following the funeral.
Shiva begins immediately after the funeral as the mourners gather together at home, cut off from the normal routine of their lives which death has interrupted.
A shiva candle will be provided by Bet-Olam, and is lit when the mourners arrive home from the burial. There is a prayer to be said on page 619 of the Mishkan T’filah, World Union Edition, prayer book. The candle is allowed to burn for the entire shiva period. Care should therefore be taken to leave it in a safe location. One of our Rabbis should be consulted regarding the details of shiva practices.
Jewish tradition is to have the community gather at the mourners’ home and accompany them in their mourning. This tradition has evolved into the “minyan” which literally means ‘quorum’, which represents the community, family and friends who gather together to remember the deceased and to comfort the mourners.
A minyan is usually held at least on the night of the funeral; on occasion some will host three nights or even the traditional six (waking up on the seventh day is considered sufficient to ‘complete’ the seventh day of the shiva).
The minyan consists of the evening prayers, as well as a short memorial service, a eulogy and the mourner’s Kaddish. The minyan can be an additional opportunity to mourn, but also to remember and to celebrate the life of your loved one. It is also a little easier for the mourners to talk about their loved one at the minyan than it is at the funeral itself.
Often friends will bring food, or the family may choose to cater the event.
Although it is appropriate to do it in the home of a family member, where memories of the deceased abound, the minyan may also be held at the synagogue by arrangement with Bet-Olam and your Rabbi.
Shloshim (thirty) ends on the morning of the thirtieth day after the funeral. It marks the end of the traditional formal mourning period. The period from the end of shiva to the end of shloshim is one of transition from deep bereavement to resuming life’s usual routine. Again, a Rabbi should be consulted regarding the details of shloshim practices.
Throughout the first month of mourning, your loved one’s name will be read out as part of our weekly Shabbat services at all Progressive synagogues –
You are most welcome to attend.
At the end of shloshim, family and friends may chose to gather together to read or study appropriate texts, to pray together, and to speak about the deceased.
For the death of a parent, the traditional mourning continues for a year, marked by the recitation of kaddish for eleven months of the Hebrew calendar.
Yahrzeit, literally “the year time”, is traditionally observed on each anniversary of the day of death according to the Hebrew calendar, though some find it more convenient to remember and mark the Gregorian date each year. A yahrzeit candle is lit at sunset on the evening before the yahrzeit date and burns for 25 hours. There is a prayer to be said on lighting a Yahrzeit candle, on page 619 of the Mishkan T’filah, World Union Edition, prayerbook.
In addition, most mourners attend services and recite the Mourners Kaddish, (page 598 of the Mishkan T’filah prayerbook), visit the cemetery, give tzedakah (charity) or engage in special acts of kindness to others. For further details, consult your Rabbi.
Consecration Of The Headstone
It is customary to set the Matzevah or headstone over the grave any time from the eleventh month after the death. While the physical placement and engraving may take place prior to this, it is our tradition to return to the gravesite for a consecration or an unveiling of the headstone or plaque ceremony. This occurs at the conclusion of the year of mourning, and it is equally appropriate to gather to dedicate a plaque where cremated remains are marked.
Contact your Rabbi if you wish to arrange a personal consecration service for your loved one, or need assistance with the engraving of the tombstone.
The Progressive movement also holds an Annual Memorial Service which is usually held on the Sunday prior to Rosh Hashanah at the Jewish Memorial Gardens, Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Springvale.
This service consecrates all the graves from that year and everyone is welcome to attend. It is a traditional part of the preparation for the High Holydays to visit the graves of our loved ones.
Bet-Olam Jewish Funerals will write to all families advising them of the date of this service.
Yizkor, memorial services in memory of our deceased loved ones, are held on Yom Kippur, Sh’mini Atzeret, on the last day of Pesach and on Shavuot. A yahrzeit candle may be lit at sunset on the evening before yizkor is recited. If you wish the name of your loved one to be called out, please make sure the synagogue office is informed beforehand.