jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Mourning - the first Week

Shivah Restrictions (Cont.)

Refraining from Torah study: Learning Torah is likewise forbidden even on the Sabbath since learning Torah is considered a pleasure, as written in Psalms 19:9“The precepts of the Lord are upright, gladdening the heart / פקודי ה' ישרים, משמחי לב”. Reading the Books of Job and Lamentations and reviewing the laws of mourning is permitted. However, the mourners must skip verses of consolation and should study only the plain meaning, because in-depth study may distract them from mourning and bring on the joy of accomplishment. Mourners should study individually without interacting with others. Mourners are not called up to the public Torah reading and, unless there is no substitute, should not perform the Torah reading. The visitors, however, are permitted to study Torah in the presence of mourners. In fact, visitors are encouraged to read aloud from the Book of Psalms and study Mishnah / משנה in a house of mourning, as will be explained later. According to many rabbinical authorities, the mourners may also recite Psalms for the soul of the deceased.

Refraining from work: One should refrain from working and conducting business during the entire period of Shivah / שבעה, so that one is not distracted from mourning. It is not even permissible to appoint an agent who would do the mourner’s job, unless a potential loss of money is involved. The loss of money — Davar HaOved / דבר האובד, in Hebrew, means the loss of existing assets, not just the loss of profits during Shiva. Therefore, a storeowner should normally close the store during Shivah, even though there is a partner who is not in mourning. However, if there is a danger of permanently losing customers, a partner or a worker appointed by the owner may, upon consultation with a competent rabbi, keep the store open, but all necessary arrangements should preferably be finished before the burial.

If it is impossible to have the work done by others and there is a substantial financial loss, some rabbinical authorities permit the mourners to work themselves, especially after the first three days of Shiva, provided the work is done inconspicuously. An extremely poor person, who otherwise would not have enough to eat, is also allowed to work inconspicuously after the first three days of Shivah. In all these cases a competent rabbi needs to be consulted.

Housework, such as cooking and cleaning the home, may be done, but only as much as is needed for the family and guests during Shiva. The only exception is the preparation of the first meal — the Seudat Havraah / סעודת הבראה — the meal of condolence, which is the subject of the next section.