A Closer Look at the Jewish Tradition of Shiva

Funeral Home San Mateo

Jewish funerals often involve the tradition of shiva. After funeral services and burial services at a cemetery, individuals of the Jewish faith take part in a mourning process known as shiva. Shiva is a weeklong period during which mourners both remember the deceased and focus on their own spirituality. Keep reading to learn more about shiva, including the ritual washing, sitting period, and prayer services.

Ritual Washing
After burial services for the deceased have culminated, Jewish mourners perform a ritual act of washing. This act is done after leaving the cemetery and before entering the shiva house. Jewish funerals mandate that mourners pour water three times over each hand, alternating hands each time. This careful washing is a spiritual performance that recognizes the sanctity of life. The Jewish faith places great significance on water as the source of all life.

Sitting Period
The seven-day sitting period begins immediately after burial services. If a funeral ceremony is on a Tuesday, the last day of shiva will be the following Monday. Mourners do not leave the shiva house at any time and generally take off work during this week. Shiva usually takes place in the home of the deceased. Mourners believe that the deceased individual’s presence is strongest in his or her own home. Individuals who sit shiva are spouses, siblings, parents, or children of the deceased.

Prayer Services
Prayers services take place where shiva is sat and not in a temple. This tradition enables mourners to remain in the home of the deceased and to truly become absorbed in the mourning process. Services are generally held in the morning, late afternoon, and evening. In between more formal services, mourners may share their memories of the deceased and passages from the Torah.

To learn more about Jewish funerals near San Mateo, contact Skylawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park by calling (650) 349-4411. In addition to traditional burial services, we also offer green burials. Visit our cemetery and memorial park today to view the grounds and speak directly to an attentive, compassionate member of our staff.

What Is the Etiquette for Attending Jewish Funerals?

Jewish Funeral Service

If you’ve previously been to funeral services for an individual of the Christian faith, you will likely find that the funeral rites are similar for a Jewish funeral. However, there are some differences. Jewish funeral services usually do not include a visitation and they may be held at the funeral home, rather than at a synagogue. There may not be a graveside service at the cemetery; however, individuals who were especially close to the family or the deceased may be asked to accompany the casket to the burial plot.

Dressing for the Funeral
It is not generally expected that all of the mourners will wear an all-black outfit. This rule of thumb applies regardless of whether the decedent was of Christian or Jewish faith. However, if you do choose to wear colors other than black, choose somber, conservative colors. If you’re female, keep your makeup and jewelry minimal. If you’re male, you may be provided with a yarmulke to wear.

Attending the Funeral
Arrive at least a few minutes early to the funeral home. The funeral director will let you know where you should sit. Avoid approaching the family members and other mourners at this time. Instead, remain respectfully silent throughout the service or participate in the prayers if you’re familiar with them. Sometimes, at the end of the service, friends and distant relatives are asked to form two opposing lines. The immediate mourners will then walk between the lines. This is a symbolic gesture that the mourners are not alone in their grief.

Offering Your Condolences
To offer your condolences to the family members, write a brief note in the guest book at the funeral home. Avoid sending flowers to the home or to the funeral home. Instead, make a donation to a charity in the memory of the decedent. Another way to show that you care is to connect with the individuals who are organizing the reception. Ask whether you can bring food to the home while the family is sitting shiva.

At Skylawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park, our funeral home professionals can help your family design funeral services in San Mateo that are in accordance with your loved one’s faith. Our memorial park provides a beautiful, serene place to reflect upon the cherished memories of your loved ones. If you have any questions about our respectful funeral options, call us at (650) 349-4411.

What Happens at a Jewish Funeral?

Funeral services for a Jewish decedent may take place entirely at the burial plot. Or, they may begin at the synagogue or funeral home before moving on to the memorial park. Under Jewish tradition, certain individuals are designated as the mourners. These include the parent, spouse, sibling, and children of the decedent. Sometimes, these mourners will perform the ritual of tearing the clothing in the presence of the rabbi, or they may wear something torn to the funeral service. If you’re attending a Jewish funeral and you aren’t officially considered a mourner under Jewish custom, it is not appropriate to greet the mourners before the funeral ceremony. Instead, approach them after the service.

Typically, a Jewish funeral service includes the recitation of prayers. The officiant and others may read psalms together and recite the Kaddish. It is not traditional for music to be played at a Jewish funeral; however, the mourners may sometimes choose to play a selection that was significant for the decedent. It is traditional for all mourners and attendees to form lines after the graveside service. In turn, each person may toss a shovelful of dirt into the grave. Whether or not this will occur depends on the family’s preference and on local regulations.

Skylawn Funeral Home & Memorial Park helps families create healing experiences through our personalized funeral services in San Mateo. If you wish to speak with a funeral director at our memorial park, please call (650) 445-0953.