Group/Organization discussion > What is the Purpose of Sitting Shiva?

What is the Purpose of Sitting Shiva?

Sharon Rosen
2341 days ago

Shiva is the Jewish period of mourning observed the first week after the funeral of a parent, spouse, sibling, or child.
From the time of death until the conclusion of the funeral, the primary focus and concern is on the care of the deceased and the burial preparations. Once shiva begins, the focus shifts to the mourners. Shiva is a time of reflection, meditation, contemplation and spiritual healing. The difficult process of mourning begins when pain, loss and sadness are expressed. The purpose of shiva is to acknowledge these feelings, not suppress them.
“Sitting shiva," is intended to be an emotionally healing time where the mourners may dwell together and have friends and loved ones come to support them. The home of a direct mourner is said to be filled with the spirit of the loved one who is now gone. Memories will come easily there, and part of the comfort of shiva is remembering the deceased by sharing stories of his or her life with friends and family. Shiva is a very difficult time that can be physically draining as well. Mourners experience a week of intense sadness, with family and friends giving love and attention to their needs. Judaism teaches us that when a member of our community feels the heart-wrenching pain of grief, we should be there to comfort and console.

It is important to know that all Jewish people do not mourn alike. Some may choose to meticulously observe the traditional rites and customs of mourning while others may be more relaxed in their observance. Some families sit shiva for a day or more and others not at all.

Many mourners will not go to work during the shiva period, run errands outside of the house, or turn on a TV or radio. Some will avoid any type of entertainment or distraction in order to fulfill their need to grieve.

It is considered a great mitzvah (act of kindness) to visit someone "sitting shiva." A house of shiva is typically well stocked with food and desserts, intended to sustain and celebrate the on-going cycle of life.
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