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PATHEOS LIBRARY OF

World Faiths & Religions

Frequently Asked Questions

When Jews mourn they do something called shiva; what is that all about?

Shiva, from the Hebrew word for seven, refers to the first seven days of mourning beginning with the day of the burial (not the day of the death). This first stage of grieving is very deep and intense. There are many laws and customs surrounding the ritual of shiva. Almost all of them are based on the idea that those surviving the deceased should do little else than remember their loved one. Mourners are not to leave the house, wear shoes, sit on comfortable chairs, listen to music, cook food, etc. The lives of the mourners are devoted to the deceased during shiva. Many non-Orthodox Jews have cut the time of shiva from seven days to three days or less because of the restrictions of traditional shiva.