Jewish Funeral [Shivah] Explained

Jewish Funeral: Shivah

When a Jewish person dies we honour specific traditions to respect and celebrate their life. As with many other Jewish traditions, many of the rules surrounding death are time sensitive.

It’s important that the person be buried as soon as possible. The body is never on display, nor is it cremated. Bodies are buried in Jewish cemeteries, provided they don’t have any body art, in a process known as a Lavoya. [If they have tattoos they will not be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery unless a special recommendation is made by a Rabbi.] The Lavoya is the gathering of the family and friends to accompany the body to it’s final resting place, followed by a gathering (usually back at the family home) to eat and remember the person fondly.

The family home will have all mirrors covered so that the family members don’t have to look at their grief and immediate family members will tear an article of clothing close their heart to wear, often a scarf or tie.

The period of mourning officially lasts seven days and is known as sitting Shiva. During this time the family doesn’t work and no celebrations take place. The community rallies around the family, cooking all of their meals and taking over any existing chores that can’t be postponed.

After then Shiva ends, 30 days of what’s known as Shloshim begins. The family returns to work and life in general–but with some restrictions. Celebrations are postponed or cancelled during this time, men are forbidden to get haircuts, and most importantly, during Sloshim it’s traditional to do a mitzvah, or good deed in the memory of the deceased.

A year after the death the tombstone is unveiled in the cemetary. This is known as Matzevah and gathers family and friends once again to hold a remembrance for the deceased, followed by a gathering back at the family home where the deceased favourite foods are typically served.

Every year there after remembrance candle, known as a yahrziet is lit on the day of passing and allowed to burn itself out. The family typically gathers to celebrate the life, and the loved one’s favourite foods are served. This is known as Yahrtzeit.

You see! Jewish celebrations are all about food.

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