Ask Jane: Sitting Shiva

Q. Dear Jane: The mother of a very dear Jewish friend has passed away. What is the best way that I can offer comfort to my friend during this time? Is there a specific way I should honor the memory of her mother? I am not Jewish and am not familiar with the traditions.

A. Visiting your friend and bringing food is an ideal way to pay your condolences and show her your support. When a Jewish family experiences the loss of a loved one, the tradition is for the family to sit Shiva [pronounced SHI-vah. ]

Sitting Shiva is the tradition of mourning in the Jewish religion. During the shiva period, typically a 7-day period (the Hebrew word shiva means 7) friends, family and neighbors pay a home visit (“shiva call”) to the mourners. The company of others during Shiva plays a key role in helping the bereaved in this time of mourning.

Jewish custom discourages sending flowers when people are sitting Shiva. However, food is almost always welcome. Some people make donations to a favorite charity in the name of the deceased. For those who are unable to make a personal visit, sending a kosher gift basket such as a Shiva Gift Basket or Jewish Sympathy Basket, with a thoughtful card is an appropriate and thoughtful gesture. Kosher baskets are recommended so that no one is excluded from sharing in the basket contents.

Your gift should have a gift card signed by you (many people often forget to sign their gifts cards). And when you are thinking of what to write, a simple message is best. Consider a message such as “With our heartfelt sympathy,” or “We are so sorry for your loss. May (insert name of deceased)’s memory be a blessing to all who knew him/her.” Another popular option is the more traditional message: “May G-D Comfort You Among All The Mourners Of Zion And Jerusalem.” Click for more help with writing gift cards.

If there is a chance to be helpful, make an offer, or just complete the task, when appropriate. Run errands, pick-up at the airport, host someone coming in from out of town, cook or clean-up, or take care of children. Whatever can be done to remove daily chores from those sitting Shiva becomes an immense help.

If you have a question for Jane about Jewish Traditions, holiday menus, Jewish recipes, gift giving or more, please fill in the comment box below and we will answer it in an upcoming post of Ask Jane.

1 Comment »

  1. Sympathy Gifts Said,

    November 16, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    What a great post. It is nice to know this about Shiva. People that are not Jewish may not know not to send flowers. What a great resource your site is to help us offer sympathy to people of different religions.

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