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What to Expect at a Shiva

The Shiva is a seven-day period of mourning following the death of a family member in Judaism. A Shiva is typically observed in the immediate family members’ home, but it may be more convenient to host it elsewhere on some occasions.

When Does Shiva Begin?

Typically, a Shiva begins immediately after the burial and will usually last seven days after the service. However, it is the decision of the mourning family to choose how long they wish to observe the Shiva, and a shorter period is allowed under Jewish law. The family may choose to have all-day visitation or set up hours for public visitation between periods of private grieving.

What Happens When You First Arrive?

It is customary to wash your hands before entering a home observing Shiva. Jewish history points to this practice being related to cleansing the hands of impurity after visiting the cemetery. Homes will typically have a washing station set up outside the entrance.

What to Expect at a Shiva Inside the Home

If you don’t know what to expect at a Shiva, some of the customs followed inside the home may catch you off guard. First, there are usually several low stools and couches without cushions. Family members sit low to the floor to represent being closer to the ground and closer to their lost loved one. In addition, the mirrors are often covered. Jewish culture believes that looking in mirrors encourages self-indulgence and takes away from grieving the deceased.

What is Appropriate During Visitation?

Visiting the mourning family during observance is called a “Shiva call.” Typically, friends and relatives bring food or food related items such as kosher shiva gift baskets to the family. Many cultures find it appropriate to bring flowers to the mourning family. However, Jewish culture finds this unbecoming as flowers die. Words exchanged are typically brief, and the immediate mourning family leads the conversations. In order to maintain respect, visitors should allow the family to bring up memories of their deceased loved one only if they choose to.

While Shiva has its general set of rules, the family may vary slightly from that, and you may not always know what to expect from a Shiva. If you have questions, remember to communicate with people close to the immediate family to make sure you are prepared.

Remember the purpose of a Shiva

Shiva is an important time to come together and support one another as we process our grief. It can be a difficult time, but it is also a chance to connect with those who have lost a loved one. By sharing our stories and experiences, we can help each other through this tough time. If you are attending a Shiva in the coming weeks or months, please remember that these gatherings are sacred and offer space for healing. You may bring or send a Shiva kosher gift basket, but most importantly, be respectful of the mourners and their loss, and let them know that you care. If you’re looking for an appropriate Shiva gift basket, visit our online store and shop our full line of beautifully hand-crafted gift baskets. Our handmade kosher gift baskets are made in a variety of styles to fit any occasion, and they can be a warm and thoughtful offering to the grieving family.

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