jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Mourning - the first Month

Sheloshim / שלושים

This stage starts immediately after the burial and extends to the thirtieth day from the burial. This period, as well as the thirtieth day itself, is called Sheloshim / שלושים — literally thirty. During the time when Shivah / שבעה and Sheloshim stages overlap, the rules of Shiva take precedence. After the Shivah, many of the restrictions of mourning are relaxed, but mourning is still intense until the end of Sheloshim — the first month of mourning. Just as the moon's full cycle of renewal takes a month, so too, a mourner's adjustment to his or her new reality takes a month.

According to Maimonides / רמב"ם (Rambam, Hilchot Avel 6:1), the obligation to mourn for thirty days is a rabbinical commandment, based on the verse in the Book of Deuteronomy 21:13 — “She shall weep for her father and mother for a month / ובכתה את אביה ואת אמה ירח ימים”. We find also in the Book of Deuteronomy 34:8 that “the Children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days / ויבכו בני ישראל את משה בערבת מואב שלשים יום”.

Mourning restrictions. During Sheloshim the mourners no longer have to stay within the confines of the house of mourning, sit on the ground or a low stool and refrain from wearing leather shoes, engaging in business, work, Torah study and marital intimacy. The mourners are allowed to greet others even with the traditional Shalom Aleichem / שלום עליכם — peace be with you, but others should not greet them in this manner.

Yet, during Sheloshim the mourner may not shave or get a haircut. This prohibition is derived from the verse in the Book of Leviticus 10:6 — “Do not let your hair grow long / ראשיכם אל תפרעו”. These words were addressed to Aaron the High Priest after the death of his two sons. Aaron was commanded not to show his grief because of his priestly status. From this verse the Talmud in Tractate Moed Katan 14b infers that a haircut is forbidden to mourners who are not High Priests. This prohibition lasts for the entire thirty days, as explained in the Talmud, Tractate Moed Katan 19b. There are opinions that a moustache may be trimmed, if it interferes in any manner with eating. The fingernails and toenails are not to be trimmed with a tool, but may be clipped in an unusual manner, e.g., with the teeth or hands.

The custom is to refrain from taking a bath or shower for pleasure, using lotions, cosmetics or perfumes. A married woman, however, may wear jewelry and use lotions, cosmetics and perfumes, so that she would not become unattractive to her husband. Prior to going to the Mikvah / מקוה she should bathe in a usual manner.

The mourners may not wear freshly laundered and/or ironed clothes, unless somebody else wore the garment first for a short time or it is dropped on the floor to reduce the enjoyment. The prohibition against wearing new clothes is stricter and a mourner should not wear them unless it is extremely necessary and somebody else first wears them for a few days. There is an opinion that the prohibition of changing into freshly laundered garments does not apply to underwear, whose purpose is to absorb perspiration.

Festive events. The mourners may not listen to music or go on pleasure trips. They should refrain from buying a new home, redecorating or purchasing new furniture. A mourner should not get married and should not attend wedding celebrations during the Sheloshim period. However, if it is not possible to postpone the wedding or postponing it would be a major financial loss — Hefsed Meruba / הפסד מרובה, one should ask a competent rabbi for guidance. A mourner may not attend parties or send gifts, except for the two Purim Gifts — Mishloach Manot / משלוח מנות, which is the minimum requirement on Purim / פורים. It is permissible, however, for professional musicians, photographers, caterers, etc., to attend festive events as part of their work duties. A rabbi is allowed to officiate at a wedding ceremony and even attend the festive meal, but should not eat there. A music teacher may teach and a music student is allowed to study and play music to practice.

Mourning customs. Throughout the entire Sheloshim period the mourners continue learning Mishnah / משנה in memory of the deceased. We already discussed the details of this custom. It is customary that a mourner should not sit in his regular place in the synagogue during Sheloshim, but should move to a less prominent seat at least Arba Amot / ארבע אמות — four cubits away from his regular seat. If he is mourning for his father, he should not sit in his father’s place either. Some of the Sephardim, however, have a custom that mourners return to their regular seat right after the end of Shiva.

In case of great need, the restrictions of Sheloshim may be relaxed upon consultation with a competent rabbi. In any event they are not stricter than during Shivah. Whatever was permitted during Shiva for medical or other reasons is permitted during Sheloshim as well.