Mourning practices in Judaism are important yet extensive, and it can be confusing to understand just how to conduct oneself in order to observe the mourning rituals during the times of holidays and festivals. Since preparing for funerals and mourning happens very quickly in the Jewish faith, providing these basic guidelines to follow may give you a better understanding of how to approach death and mourning should it fall on a Jewish holiday.
Death and Funerals During Jewish Holidays
A funeral takes place as soon as possible after the death, according to Jewish tradition, typically no later than 24 hours after the passing. However, if the death occurs on or during a Jewish holiday, the rules will change. Funerals are, in general, not held on the festival days of Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, the first/second/last days of other festivals, or on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur – funerals take place after these holidays.
Shiva During a Holiday
The presence of a holiday will also affect the mourning process, including shiva. The seven-day period of Jewish mourning, shiva, commences promptly – immediately following the burial – and concludes on the seventh day. This remains true if a death occurs just prior to a holiday, but observance of shiva is completed once the holiday begins, regardless of how much time was dedicated to shiva. If a death or burial occurs during a holiday, the shiva will begin the sundown after the conclusion of the holiday. For instance, if the funeral was on a Wednesday, the last day of shiva is the following Tuesday. If a Jewish holiday falls during those seven days, shiva ends the afternoon just prior to the holiday festivities. In this situation, it is acknowledged that you mourned for seven days, even though it was cut short.
It’s possible that a death occurs on or just before a holiday, without the mourner’s knowledge. In this case, shiva will still not begin until after the conclusion of the holiday.
If a death happens on Shabbat, the burial will be done the very next day. No mourning may occur on Shabbat, nor may the burial take place on Shabbat, but the day of Shabbat does count as one of the seven days of shiva. The Sabbath that occurs amid the shiva period counts toward the seven days of shiva, however it is not observed officially as a day of mourning. When Shabbat falls during the shiva, one does not mourn publically. All of the outer rituals that are conducted – the outer signs of mourning such as covering mirrors, sitting low – are suspended, because the joy of Shabbat overrides even public mourning. On Shabbat, people sitting shiva mourn on the inside – privately, in their hearts. On Saturday night, the shiva resumes.
While this outline can serve to provide general information regarding funeral arrangements, it is always best to consult your rabbi and funeral directors to best offer you guidance about funeral arrangements and shiva. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Jerusalem Memorial Chapels Funeral Director and Founding Partner, Adam Novak, (24/7) via phone/text at (516) 418-7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions regarding death, mourning and the holidays