Jewish mourning practices provide a profound roadmap to help guide the bereavement process.
They are comprised of a series of laws and customs that delineate many marks in the mourning process, including:
The moment of death
The period between death and burial (aninut)
The funeral (kevurah)
The seven-day mourning period (shiva)
The thirty-day mourning period (shloshim)
The year mourning period for parents (yud-bet chodesh)
The anniversary date of someone’s death (yahrzeit).
The different laws and customs relating to these periods are meant to reflect, as well as guide, our reaction in the face of loss. As Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (d. 1993) has written,
“Judaism understands that bitterness, grief, and confusion are noble emotions which should be assimilated and accepted by man, not rejected at the time of distress.
Of course, emotions, like the tide, reach a high mark, make an about face, and begin to recede. The Torah has therefore recommended to man not only to submit himself to the emotional onslaught, but gradually and slowly to redeem himself from its impact.
Therefore, the Halakhah divided mourning into various stages… We have during these stages an imperceptible transition from a depressed, desolate, bitter consciousness of catastrophe to a redeemed higher consciousness.”Out of the Whirlwind, p. 13
Ematai is pleased to share an in-depth guide to the various laws and customs of mourning prepared by Rabbi Leonard Matanky in his The Koren Siddur for the House of Mourning (2019).
This guide draws from Rabbi David Brofsky’s comprehensive work, Hilkhot Avelut: Understanding the Laws of Mourning (Maggid, 2018).
Both of these books are highly recommended and may be purchased on the Koren / Maggid website.
We thank our friends at Koren for permission to share this material.