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How To Sit Shiva

In Hebrew, shiva means the number seven. It also denotes the seven-day mourning period after the burial of a close relative: spouse, parent, child, or sibling.


  • Step 1: To avoid paying attention to appearance, some Jews cover mirrors throughout the home with fabric or paper.
  • Step 2: To mark this mourning period, don black clothing, wear non-leather shoes, and don’t apply makeup or shave.
  • Step 3: Light a tall candle, or specifically a shiva candle from a funeral home, that will last through the entire seven days of mourning.
  • Step 4: Visit the loved one’s grave on the seventh day.
  • FACT: If a Jewish festival occurs after the first day of mourning, the shiva ends early, and if a burial takes place during a holiday, the shiva begins when the holiday ends.
  • TIP: Relatives and friends of the mourners prepare food on the first day of shiva. This meal is called seudat havra’ah and typically includes bread, eggs, and lentils.
  • Step 5: Accept assistance from family and friends for meals, errands, and so forth.
  • Step 6: Set your own hours of visitation and let people know through word of mouth and/or by posting signs.
  • TIP: The deceased are buried as soon as possible, generally within 24 hours, but no mourning or burials are to occur on the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat.
  • Step 7: Pray for the deceased every day with the mourner’s kaddish. Normally, an elder or someone held in high esteem is asked to lead the prayer.
  • Step 8: Focus on the loved one who has passed. Place a photograph of the deceased in a visible spot; look at other photos and share memories with those who come to pay shiva calls.
  • Step 9: Pick a location to house the shiva. This is usually the home of the closest relative to the deceased who can accommodate a large number of people.

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