Brings Support to the Grieving
A Community Gathers
the Jewish period of mourning. It is a time when the bereaved stay at home to
focus on their grief and begin the healing process. While the family is
“sitting Shiva” they receive visitors—friends, family and community members who
share memories and prayers, and provide. It is this outpouring of warmth, care
and strength that plays a key role in helping the bereaved through the process
Shiva is traditionally observed for seven days, but some families choose to sit
Shiva for one, two or three days. During Shiva hours, usually announced at the
funeral, visitors are encouraged to drop in; no calling ahead is expected.
Shiva Gift Baskets—A Kind Gesture
Jewish custom discourages sending flowers or non-food items to anyone sitting
Shiva. In fact, Shiva begins with seudat havra'ah, "the meal of
consolation," prepared by family and neighbors. If you’re unable to make a
personal visit, sending a kosher
shiva gift basket or any kosher sympathy gift,
is appropriate and helpful.
“Sending a kosher sympathy gift basket is a lovely and most appreciated
gesture,” says Jane Moritz, owner of Kosher
Gift Box. “I find that many people feel the need to send something
immediately. But it’s important to remember that visitors come throughout and
even after the Shiva period. Having food to share with family and guests is
necessary for some time. It’s perfectly acceptable to have you’re kosher Shiva
gift sent a little later.”
Since you may not know whether the family sitting Shiva keeps kosher, it is
always better to err on the side of caution and choose a kosher sympathy gift
basket. Kosher foods are just as wonderful, delicious and beautifully presented
as non-kosher items. And the family or visitors who do keep kosher will certainly
appreciate your thoughtfulness.
want to include an appropriate card with your kosher gift, and a simple message is
best. Consider “With our heartfelt
sympathy,” or “We are so sorry for
your loss. You are in our thoughts,” or the most traditional, “May G-d comfort you among all mourners of
Zion and Jerusalem.”
For many, sitting Shiva with another family can be difficult and uncomfortable.
But Jewish customs are quite clear in describing proper etiquette and that
helps alleviate awkward feelings. Most importantly, be a good listener and be
as helpful as possible.
Upon your arrival, approach the mourners and sit quietly with them, possibly
offering a hug or a handshake. Let the mourner begin the conversation. Some may
not feel like talking at all, and sitting in silence is perfectly acceptable.
You can also simply say, “I’m sorry,” and that can be enough. Just being there
says it all—words are not always necessary when visiting those sitting Shiva.
It helps to remember that Shiva occurs during the most intense days of
mourning. Those who have just lost a loved one will experience a range of
powerful emotions, and that is an important part of the healing process. This
is the perfect time to share stories, photos and cherished memories of the
deceased. And if you don’t know what to say, remain silent.
If there is an opportunity to offer help, do so. If you see something that
needs attention, take the initiative, when appropriate. You can run errands,
pick-up visitors at the airport, host someone from out of town, cook, clean-up,
or take care of children. Anything that eases the daily chores of those sitting
Shiva becomes an immense help. It helps to think of a Shiva call as an act of
kindness, not a burden. The visit does not have to be long. An hour or even
less may be fine and you want to make sure you’re not tiring the family.
families to observe Shiva in various ways. It is traditional for mourners to
have a tear in their clothing to symbolize their loss, they may sit on low
stools or even on the floor to show the depth of their sadness. Some show a
traditional disregard for vanity and personal comfort by maintaining only the
most minimal standards of personal care, dressing simply and covering mirrors.
In some homes, mourners will recite Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, up to three
times a day with a minyan, a group of 10 Jewish adults. At times it is
difficult to gather a minyan, so visitors who participate are especially appreciated.
not sure how the family will be mourning, consult a close friend of the family
or the Rabbi. Above all, know that it is more important to set aside any
discomfort and focus on the fact that merely being present and showing concern
provides a great degree of comfort and helps with the long process of healing. If
being present is not possible, sending a kosher sympathy gift or sympathy card
is perfectly acceptable.
2009, Kosher Gift Box