jewish Funeral Guide

Jewish Mourning - the first Week

Shivah Restrictions

Refraining from comfort and pleasure. Mourners sitting Shivah / שבעה show their grief by refraining from any pleasurable activities such as entertainment, playing or listening to music, bathing for pleasure, using cosmetics, lotions, oils or perfumes, shaving, haircuts and marital intimacy. One is allowed to wash one’s face, hands and feet with cold water, rinse one's mouth and brush one's teeth. One is also allowed to wash (even with hot water) one’s hands and any other areas that became dirty, but may not take a shower, unless required for medical reasons. Hair combing is permissible during Shiva. The fingernails and toenails are not to be trimmed with a tool during Shivah, but may be clipped in an unusual manner, e.g., with the teeth or hands. There are opinions that a moustache may be trimmed, if it interferes with eating in any manner.

The mourners are not permitted to wear leather shoes and to change their clothes, unless they do so in honor of the Sabbath. For the entire Shiva period they should wear the clothes that were torn as a sign of mourning during the funeral, as explained in the section about Keriah / קריעה — rending of garments. If one must change clothes because they became visibly soiled, one should not change into new clothing or clothing that has been freshly laundered. Those who mourn for their parents must rend the garments they changed into, unless the garments were worn only on the Sabbath. There is an opinion that the prohibition of changing clothes does not apply to underwear, whose purpose is to absorb perspiration.

A woman may not wear any jewelry, except for her wedding ring. However, a bride during the first thirty days of marriage is permitted to wear her jewelry.

The mourners should not sit on a regular chair, stool or couch. For all seven days of Shivah, the mourners should sit close to the ground, as described in the Book of Job 2:13“and they sat with him to the ground seven days and seven nights / וישבו אתו לארץ שבעת ימים ושבעת לילות”. Sitting on the floor is preferable, but the mourners may also sit on a low stool, provided that it is lower than three Tefachim / טפחים — handbreadths from the floor. The seat does not have to be uncomfortable, however. Consequently, sitting on a thin pillow or cushion is permitted. This prohibition does not apply to pregnant women, nursing mothers, the sick, or the elderly. Sleeping on a bed of normal height is permitted.

Games, touring and sports are not allowed. As a matter of fact, the mourners should not leave the house at all, unless it is an emergency situation or for one of the reasons that we shall discuss later.