December 25, 2009, Newsletter Issue #181: How to Pay a Shiva Call

Tip of the Week

Jewish tradition holds that the family of someone who dies has a period of mourning that lasts seven days. This is called Sitting Shiva. During this time the family stays home and accepts visitors who pay condolence calls, called a Shiva Call. There are some things to expect and some things that are expected of you as the visitor.


What Is Expected of You

Pick an appropriate time, do not visit during Shabbat (the weekly holy day). Ask friends of the family when to visit.
Walk in, the door will probably be unlocked. This saves the family from getting up repeatedly.
Wash your hands upon entering if water, a basin, and towels are provided.
Bring food or have it sent. When you arrive take it straight to the kitchen.
Seek out the mourner and offer a handshake or hug, let them lead the conversation.
Feel free to talk to friends.
Watch the time, the normal time for a Shiva Call is one hour.



What to Expect

A tall candle is usually burned for the seven days in rememberance of the person who died.
Mirrors are draped with cloth as the mourners are not concerned with their appearance.
It is traditional for family members to wear a torn piece of clothing or ribbon to show how their heart is torn.
Members of the family may be sitting on the floor to symbolize how they have been brough down by the loss. They may be wearing socks or slippers.

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