Traditional Jewish mourning ritual includes what is called ‘sitting shiva’. Mourners begin ‘sitting shiva’ immediately after the burial of their loved one. Shiva, which means ’seven’ in Hebrew, typically lasts seven days, the first day being the day of the funeral.
Not all Jewish people mourn alike. Some may choose to observe traditional rites and customs meticulously while others may be more relaxed in their observance.
Shiva practices are not observed on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
The purpose of sitting shiva is to allow the mourner time to focus on their grief and have family and friends around for support. Through symbolic acts such as covering the mirrors, wearing a torn ribbon or rending a garment, you are allowing yourself to focus on the soul and not worry about keeping up appearances. In Jewish tradition, mourners sit on low chairs or stools to symbolize an awareness that their life has changed. It is a mitzvah (an act of kindness) for visitors to bring or send prepared food to mourners, to assure there is plenty to eat as observant mourners may not prepare for themselves. If the family observes traditional Jewish dietary laws only kosher foods should be provided. Shiva ends at the beginning of a holy day and no physical sign of Shiva is required on the Sabbath.