Mourning a Loss
In Jewish tradition, the mourner recites the Mourner’s Kaddish (mourner’s prayer) for a defined period of time following the death of the loved one and annually on the anniversary of the death (yahrtzeit). The mourner may say Kaddish daily. Morning minyanim are held at The Jewish Center on Sunday and Wednesday, and daily minyanim are available elsewhere in the community. The synagogue office has this information. Evening minyanim are typically held in the shiva house. However, no minyan should take place in the shiva house during Shabbat. If the funeral occurs on Friday, mourners are formally received back into the congregation as part of the Friday night service. Mourners may say Kaddish daily following shiva. If this is not feasible, mourners may wish to regularly attend Shabbat services to say Kaddish.
No one should mourn alone. Kaddish is recited in a minyan (a group of 10 adult Jews, men or women) offering connection with the Jewish community. It is noteworthy that the Kaddish prayer makes no mention of death. It is a prayer praising God and requesting shalom (peace). Saying Kaddish helps the mourner by providing a link to former generations and is a visible expression of respect for the departed.
Shiloshim – The First Thirdy Days
The thirty days following the funeral are called shloshim. It includes the first seven days (shiva) and the following 23 days. During this mourning period, the mourner typically refrains from participating in various forms of pleasure and entertainment. The mourner may continue to wear the black ribbon or item of clothing torn at the kriah ritual. If a major holiday (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur) occurs during shloshim, the remainder of shloshim is cancelled. Shloshim concludes the mourning period for all relatives except mourning for a parent, which is for eleven months. Please consult one of our clergy if you have any questions about these issues.
To view or print the entire Mourner's Guide click here
The unveiling customarily takes place within the first year after death, and not less than 30 days after the funeral. At the grave, a cloth that has been temporarily placed over the newly erected monument is removed at the conclusion of a brief service. The monument marks the burial place and honors the deceased. The custom of erecting a monument dates back to Biblical times. Our clergy are able to assist a family who would like to conduct the unveiling themselves, or else they can be available to officiate. Please be in touch with them before finalizing any details with family members or the cemetery.
Yahrtzeit is the Hebrew anniversary of the day of death. The yahrtzeit is calculated according to the Jewish calendar. The funeral home will give the mourners a listing of future dates. The custom is to attend a service during the week of the yahrtzeit to recite the Mourners Kaddish in memory of the departed. Aspects of the observance of yahrtzeit take place in the home, in the synagogue and at the cemetery. In the home, a memorial candle is lit at sunset preceding the yahrtzeit day to burn for twenty-four hours. The candle is lit before sunset on Shabbat or Yom Tov (Eighth Day of Pesach, the Second Day of Shavuot, Shemini Atzeret and Yom Kippur). We recite Kaddish in the synagogue at the service. The Jewish Center maintains files of yahrtzeit dates for those who register the information. A letter is sent before yahrtzeit to remind us of the date and our responsibilities to say Kaddish.
Some traditionally visit the cemetery on the yahrtzeit to recite psalms and the El Malei Rachamim prayer. This may be done on any date close to the actual yahrtzeit. The yahrtzeit day is one of remembrance and reverence. We try to set aside time for study and reflection. We give tzedakah, charity, to perpetuate the memory of our loved ones.
Yizkor is when we remember our loved ones by reciting psalms and prayers at a brief memorial service four times each year. The Yizkor service is held as part of the congregational service on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, the Eighth Day of Passover and the Second Day of Shavuot at the synagogue. The Jewish Center publishes an annual Book of Remembrance which includes the names of family members who died during the previous year and also those deceased whose family make a donation to have the name included. Most people follow the tradition of not reciting Yizkor during the first year of mourning.
Return to Previous Section.
Continue to Next Section "Shiva"
(Excerpted from "Saying Goodbye: A Guide to Dealing with the Passing of a Loved One" .)