The Practicalities of Shiva

mourning candle

Some of you know that I receive just about all of the synagogue e-newsletters. Sometimes the rabbis use that vehicle to contact their members. Not long ago I received an email from a Conservative congregation who had a recent loss. It is a useful way of illustrating some aspects of Shiva practice.

The rabbi said:

Yesterday we had the sad and moving funeral, burial, and first day of shiva for our beloved Lottie. Lottie’s daughters Janet and Myra are sitting shiva in Lottie’s home.

While most of our members receive shiva visitors around the time of the minyan service, the more traditional practice that Janet and Myra observe is to receive visitors throughout the day.

Please visit any time in the upcoming days after 9 in the morning: today, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (until Shabbat). Minyan in the evening is at 6:45. Please note the time is different from our usual, to allow for both the afternoon and evening services to be observed. It is very important to have a minyan each evening, and I encourage attendance there as well.

There is no public mourning on Shabbat, but we will have a service following the conclusion of Shabbat at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Finally, our Cares Committee is coordinating people to help set up the home around 6:30 in the evening, and clean up at the end of the evening (around 8:45).

What do we learn from this?
First, that the traditional shiva practice is to hold a daily minyan for a week, minus Shabbat (Friday night at sundown to Saturday at sundown). Second, that a minyan is present three times a day for the traditional three daily prayer services. Third, that the community takes care of the mourners, sets up in preparation of the gathering and clears up afterwards. The mourners are mourning; that’s all that is expected of them. Period.