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What is Shiva?

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Question: What is Shiva?

Answer: After a funeral, mourners of a parent, sibling, spouse or child (more than 30 days old) stay at home until the morning of the seventh day. The word "shiva" means "seven" in Hebrew. The seven-day period of mourning gives the person in mourning time to adjust to the loss suffered.

It is customary for non-mourners to make condolence calls during the week of Shiva. Visitors should respond rather than initiate conversation with those sitting Shiva. Family and friends should serve food to those in mourning.

Ideally, prayer services are held in the home so mourners can recite the Mourners Kaddish prayer at home. The mourners can go to synagogue to pray if there are no prayer services in the home.

Jewish law demands mourners sit on low chairs to symbolize the mourner's awareness that life has changed and desire to be close to the earth in which the loved was buried. In Jewish tradition, mirrors in the home are covered and a memorial candle is lit during Shiva. Orthodox Jews in mourning will refrain from wearing leather shoes, bathing, cutting their hair, shaving or changing clothes. Shiva practices are paused during Shabbat and resumed again after Shabbat. Some mourners will end the Shiva period with a visit to the grave.

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