When it comes to bereavement, many feelings surface at such an understandably emotionally heightened and sensitive time. Mercifully, Judaism offers a wide arc of practices encompassing both halachot, Jewish laws and minhagim, customs, to help navigate the mourning period with proven therapeutic value.
In many ways the constancy of these rituals assist us as we begin to respond to what has just occurred and the ensuing days, months, first year and beyond.
The initial stage of mourning is known as Aninut and it is the period between the death and the burial – this is when the rending of garments is performed during the funeral ceremony before the burial.
The laws of ‘Sitting Shiva’ are incumbent upon the primary mourners of the deceased according to Judaism, and this includes the children, siblings, parents and spouse. It commences immediately after the burial and extends to the morning of the seventh day.
Mourners take a complete break from the routine of everyday life. For example, within this ancient Jewish tradition, they do not sit on chairs of a regular height, rather on low stools; they do not wear leather shoes, nor shave, cut hair or bathe for recreation. It is also a tradition to cover the mirrors and pictures in the house of mourning. In addition, upon returning from the cemetery, memorial candles are lit within a house of mourning in memory of the deceased – they are kept burning for the entire seven day period.
After the burial, mourners receive condolence meals throughout the Shiva week, various foods are dropped off – all-the-while relatives and friends visit in consolation and participate in prayers too with ongoing minyanim.
During Shabbat all displays of mourning are suspended and they may rise and leave the house of mourning to attend services and recite the Kaddish in shule. Shiva then concludes on the morning of the seventh day post-burial.
As the mourners begin to resume daily routines, certain bereavement practices continue for a period of thirty days, known as Shloshim. When a person’s parent passes away, these extend for a full year – our Central Family is here to provide ongoing support.
The Yahrzeit, the yearly anniversary of a loved one’s death, is an opportunity to meaningfully mark and pay respects. During the navigation of this pivotal period many questions may arise. Each can be sensitively explored with our spiritual leaders.
For more information, please call:
Rabbi Levi Wolff on 0421 622 622
Rabbi David Freedman on 0414 948 882 or
The Central Synagogue office on 02 9355 4000
To conveniently access a Sydney Chevra Kadisha prayer booklet for use in Shiva houses, please click:
For more information here are some suggested links: