Jewish Mourning Laws and Customs
The Seventh Day after the Funeral
On the morning of the seventh day, it is customary to recite the morning prayer, following which the mourners sit and the worshippers command them, "Rise, dear friends." Sephardim say, "Your sun shall no longer set, neither shall your moon be gathered, for the Lord will be an everlasting light for you, and the days of your mourning shall be completed. Like a man whose mother consoles him, so will I console you, and in Jerusalem, you shall be consoled."
The mourners take off the clothes with the kriah that they have worn during the shiva and put on ordinary clothes, not new clothes. For mourners who have no visitors to comfort them, and also on the Sabbath when visitors do not come to comfort the mourners, the shiva ends on the way to synagogue following the morning prayer.
There is a custom, which is not binding under Jewish law, for the deceased's close family to visit the grave on the seventh day. The following psalms are recited beside the grave: Psalms 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, and 130. Verses from Psalm 119 corresponding to the letters of the deceased's name are then recited. On days on which the Tahanun prayer is recited, the Ana B'koach prayer is recited, and if there is a minyan, Kaddish and Kel Malei Rachamim is also recited. In some Sephardic communities, it is customary to study sections of the Mishnah beginning with the letters of the deceased's name and the letters nun, shin, mem, and hey (neshama) next to the grave, followed by Kaddish and the Ashkavah prayer, which is said only on day on which the Tahanun prayer is recited.
If the seventh day of the shiva falls on the intermediate days of Sukkot or Passover, the visit to the grave is postponed to a later date. On other days on which Tahanun is not recited, such as Rosh Chodesh, Lag B'Omer, Tu B'Shvat, and the entire month of Nisan, the grave is visited. According to the Jerusalem custom, the grave is also visited if the seventh day of the shiva falls on Hanukah or Purim. Elsewhere, the custom of each community determines whether the grave is visited on the seventh day of the shiva.
After visiting the grave, the mourners are free to engage in their regular business. The shloshim (30-day mourning period) then begins (including the seven days since the burial).
Counting the Shloshim
On Passover, the days of mourning before Passover and during Passover are counted as 14 days for counting the shloshim. Shloshim mourning is observed for only 16 days after the holiday. On Sukkot, the days of mourning before Sukkot, during Sukkot, and Shmini Atzeret are counted as 21 days for counting the shloshim, and shloshim mourning is observed for only eight days after the holiday. On Rosh Hashana, shloshim mourning is observed only until Yom Kippur, with Yom Kippur putting an end to shloshim mourning. On Yom Kippur, shloshim mourning is observed until Sukkot, which puts an end to the shloshim mourning.
Interrupting the Shloshim Mourning Period
If the shiva ends before a holiday, and even if the shiva ends on the morning before a holiday, the holiday puts an end to the shloshim mourning. Mourners are permitted to have their hair cut, shave, and bathe shortly before evening, following the afternoon prayer. If it is strictly necessary this can be done after midday. On the day before Passover, mourners are permitted to have their hair cut and shave even before midday.
Following the seven days of shiva, 23 days of shloshim mourning still remain, during which some mourning practices are observed. Mourners do not have their hair cut or shave, and do not use a tool to trim their nails. Bathing is permitted, including in hot water. The custom among Ashkenazim is to refrain from bathing in hot water for the entire shloshim. Before a mourner wears laundered clothes, they should be given to a non-mourner to wear for a short time, after which a mourner is permitted to wear them. According to some customs, if the garment is put down on the floor, or if the fold is disrupted, it is as if someone else worth it, and the mourner can then wear it. New clothes should not be worn; in cases of strict necessity, they can be worn for two or three days. Sabbath clothes should not be worn during the week. Mourners are forbidden to marry during the shloshim. If a wedding was scheduled before one of the couple became a mourner, and the mourner has never been married, the mourner is allowed to marry during the shloshim. Matchmaking is allowed even during the shiva, and even on the same day as the death.
The 30th Day
Mourners visit the cemetery on the 30th day. They recite psalms and the Ana B'koach prayer, and recall the soul of the deceased in the Kel Malei Rachamim prayer. If there is a minyan, Kaddish is recited. If the 30th day falls on the Sabbath, the cemetery is visited on the following day. On the 30th day, those mourning a brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, or wife are permitted to have their hair cut and shave. For those mourning a father or mother, however, the ban on having a haircut is observed for several more days.
Commemoration Ceremony and Unveiling of the Tombstone
Mourners visit the cemetery on the 30th day for the commemoration ceremony, and the unveiling of tombstone is conducted on this day according to some customs. The cantor conducting the commemoration ceremony begins by reciting Psalms 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, and 130. Verses from Psalm 119 corresponding to the letters of the deceased's name are then recited; there are eight verses beginning with each letter. The cantor then recites four Mishnah sections beginning with the letters nun, shin, mem, and hey (neshama). After reciting psalms, the mourners recite the Mourners' Kaddish prayer and Kel Malei Rachamim. A small stone is laid on the grave before departing to show that those present have not forgotten the deceased. It is also customary to place the left hand on the tombstone if it has been erected. The placing of the hand is symbolic; a person's hand has five fingers with 15 joints (three joints in each finger). This hand, with its 15 joints, corresponds to the verse that speaks of the resurrection of the dead: "Let Your dead revive… The dead will come to life. (Isaiah 26:19)," which has 26 words.
When the 30th Day Falls on the Sabbath
If the 30th day falls on the Sabbath, the cemetery is visited on the preceding day (Friday) or the following day (Sunday). If the 30th day is on Shavuot or the last day of the Sukkot or Passover holiday, the cemetery is visited on the day following the holiday. If the 30th day is on the first day of Sukkot or Passover, the cemetery is visited on the day before the holiday. If the 30th day is Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, visiting the cemetery is postponed until the day following the holiday, and the Kel Malei Rachamim and Ashkavah prayers are not recited.
A 24-hour memorial candle is lit on the 30th day. The candle is placed in a prominent place in the home. Another candle is lit in the synagogue. Every effort should be made to have the mourners lead all of the prayers on the 30th day.
Erecting the Tombstone
Placing a tombstone on the deceased's grave is an ancient Jewish custom, referred to by the sages as "soul." A short message is written on the tombstone symbolizing the personality and image of the deceased, with the deceased's name and that of the deceased's father, whether the deceased is a man or a woman; Sephardim write the deceased's name and that of the deceased's mother, whether the deceased is a man or a woman, and also write the date of death according to the Hebrew calendar. The Gregorian calendar date should not be written on the tombstone. The Hebrew letters tav, nun, tzadik, bet, and hey are written at the bottom of the tombstone; this means "May his soul have everlasting life." Some communities eulogize the deceased when the tombstone is erected, and it is therefore customary not to erect the tombstone on days on which eulogies are not spoken.
When the Tombstone is Erected
In most communities, it is customary to erect the tombstone on the 30th day. It is therefore best to order it immediately after the shiva, because preparing it takes time. Some communities erect the tombstone after a full year.
The Mourning Year
The Mourning Year
Those mourning a parent observe some mourning laws for 12 months in honor of their father or mother. Even in a leap year, they observe mourning for only 12 months; they observe no mourning at all during the 13th month. The 12 months are counted from the day of the burial.
During the year of mourning, the bereaved do not attend joyous events such as wedding feasts, circumcision feasts, and so forth. There are cases in which attending such events is permitted, so a rabbi should be consulted in every such case. New clothes should not be worn. If necessary, clothes should be given to someone else to wear for two or three days, after which the mourner can wear them. Sabbath clothes should not be worn on weekdays. A mourner should sit in a different place in the synagogue, but on the Sabbath, mourners do not change their regular place in some communities. When the deceased's name is mentioned in the mourner's presence, he should say, "I am a sacrifice for his (her) eternal rest." After 12 months, he should say, "May his (her) memory be blessed)." In some communities, the mourner is called up to the maftir Torah portion during the mourning year.
Sons recite Kaddish for their parents for 11 months after the burial. The importance of saying Kaddish is emphasized in midrashim, which state that saying Kaddish redeems a parent from Gehinnom (purgatory). Some communities recite Kaddish for 12 months minus one week. Kaddish is also recited on the Sabbath and festivals. Kaddish should be recited by a son, and if the deceased has no son, or the son cannot recite Kaddish, someone is hired to recite Kaddish. Every morning, before prayers, the person hired should say that every time he recites Kaddish that day will be for the sake of the ascent of the soul of X son of Y, "May the pleasantness of our Lord," etc. If the deceased's son can lead the prayers, he does so for 11 months, other than on the Sabbath and holidays. Leading the prayers is more important than saying Kaddish. It is customary to call the mourner up to the Torah on the day on which he stops saying Kaddish.
The Last Day of the Mourning Year (Yahrzeit, Azkara)
Those mourning a parent observe mourning laws for 12 months, while those mourning other relatives observe mourning laws for only one month, except for reciting Kaddish, which continues for the entire year. During the entire year, a person mourning for a parent does not participate in joyous events, celebrations, shows, or entertainment events. The mourner does not buy new clothes, utensils, or furniture, unless this is essential for work or eating. It is also customary to avoid moving to a new dwelling during this period. Those who pray regularly have an obligation to lead the prayers and fulfill the role of cantor in prayers during the entire mourning year. In some Sephardic communities, the synagogue's regular cantor always leads the prayers; the mourner does not take his place, even if he is "obligated" to do so.
The mourner does not, however, lead the prayers on days on which the Hallel prayer is recited, and does not serve as the Torah reader on days on which the Shehecheyanu blessing is recited. Kaddish is not recited during the 12th month of the mourning year, but Mishnah sections should be studies for the sake of the ascent of the deceased's soul. The Kaddish D'Rabbanan prayer is then recited.
Determining the End of the Mourning Year
The anniversary of the death – end of the mourning year is determined according to the Hebrew calendar. If two or three days passed between the death and the burial, the date is determined according to the burial date. Starting with the second year after the death, however, the Yahrzeit date is again determined by the Hebrew anniversary of the death.
Leading the Prayers and Reciting the Haftara for Those Who Pray Regularly
On the last Sabbath before the end of the mourning year, the mourner is called up to the Torah, and the final section, the maftir, is reserved for him, so that he will be able to recite the "Haftara" (Prophets portion) for the ascent of the deceased's soul. The mourner also leads the prayers for welcoming the Sabbath on Friday night and the Musaf prayer on that Sabbath day, after being called up to the Torah for the maftir section and reading the haftara. The mourner also leads the evening prayer on Saturday night, which according to Kabalistic tradition is the time when souls return to Gehinnom, and the son's leading the prayers can redeem his parent's soul from this punishment.
On the memorial day (Yahrzeit), 24-hour memorial candles are lit in the synagogue and at home. These candles are not extinguished, even after the Yahrzeit; they are left to go out by themselves. The mourner recites Kaddish at all three prayer services. Mishnah sections are studied for the ascent of the deceased's soul after the morning prayer and between the afternoon and evening prayers. It is customary to study the Mishnah sections beginning with the letters in the deceased's first name, followed by studying four Mishnah sections from the seventh chapter of the Mikvaot tractate with first letters corresponding to the word neshama (soul): nefel, shlosha, mikveh, and hitbil.
Sum of the Numerical Values for the Letters in the Word "Tov"
As on the 30th day, some communities have the custom of studying Chapter 24 of the Kelim (vessels) tractate. This chapter contains 17 Mishnah sections emphasizing optimism and light. The number 17 is the sum of the numerical values for the letters in the word "tov" (good), and all of the Mishnah sections in this chapter ends with the word for "pure."
Sections of the Book of Zohar and Fasting
After this studying, the mourner recites Kaddish D'Rabbanan. It is customary among Sephardic communities to study chapters of the Book of Zohar on the Yahrzeit. After studying is finished on the evening before the Yahrzeit, a meal is eaten, and the "Ashkava" prayer for the deceased and "He who blessed" prayers are recited for the household members. Mourners in some communities fast on this day, and it is proper in any case to refrain from eating meat, drinking wine, and other pleasurable acts.
A Cohen on the Yahrzeit
If the mourner is a cohen, he should go to a place from which the grave is visible, and this is considered as if he visited the grave itself.
After a year has passed since the death, the deceased is recalled in the Yizkor (memorial) prayer. This prayer is recited in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret (Simchat Torah), the seventh day of Passover, and Shavuot. It is recited for parents, sisters, brothers, a wife, a husband, sons, and daughters. The prayer is recited after the Torah reading and before the Musaf prayer. The worshippers recall their relatives' names and pledge to donate tzedakah on their behalf, while explicitly stating that no vow to give tzedakah is being made. Outside the Land of Israel, Yizkor is also recited on the eighth day of Passover and on the second day of Shavuot. Worshippers whose parents are alive step outside the synagogue when Yizkor is being recited.
Studying Mishnah Sections on the Deceased's Memorial Day ("Yahrzeit")
It is customary to study Mishnah sections for the ascent of the deceased's soul: first the Mishnah sections beginning with the letters in the deceased's name and then four Mishnah sections from the seventh part of the Mikvaot tractate with first letters corresponding to the word neshama (soul). The "Ana" prayer is then recited, and sons recite Kaddish D'Rabanan. If there are no sons, other relative recite Kaddish.
Visiting the Grave
It is customary to visit the grave in the cemetery, where psalms and the "Ana" prayer are recited, after which the deceased's soul is recalled in the Kel Malei Rachamim prayer. If a minyan is present, Kaddish is recited.
A wedding should not be attended on the Yahrzeit.
The Deceased's Memorial Date ("Yahrzeit")
The Yahrzeit is the anniversary of the death, not the anniversary of the burial, even on the first anniversary. If the burial was delayed by two or more days, the custom in some communities is to observe the first Yahrzeit on the anniversary of the burial and on the anniversary of the death in subsequent years. If the death occurred during the month of Adar in a non-leap year, some communities observe the Yahrzeit in the first month of Adar in a leap year, while other communities observe the Yahrzeit in the second month of Adar. There are also communities that observe the Yahrzeit in both months of Adar.
Recalling the Deceased's Soul
The souls of the deceased are recalled in the Kel Malei Rachamim prayer on the Sabbath throughout the first year, and on the last Sabbath before the Yahrzeit in subsequent years. The most important act is to give tzedakah for the soul's ascent. Souls are not recalled on days on which the Tahanun prayer is not recited.
Yizkor after the First Year
All worshippers recite the Yizkor prayer for the ascent of the souls of their parents and relatives on four occasion during the year: Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret, the seventh day of Passover, and Shavuot.
Visiting the Grave
In the first year after death, the grave is visited only on the seventh and 30th days. The grave is also visited on the deceased's first memorial date ("Yahrzeit") and every subsequent Yahrzeit. The custom in some communities is to refrain from visiting the cemetery on Rosh Chodesh, Hanukah, Purim, the intermediate days of Sukkot, and either during the entire month of Nisan or on the intermediate days of Passover.
The "Asher Yatzar Etchem Badin" ("Who Created You Justly") Blessing
If a person has not visited a Jewish cemetery for 30 days, he should recite the following blessing on arriving at the cemetery: "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who created you in judgment, who maintained and sustained you in judgment, and brought death upon you in judgment; who knows the deeds of every one of you in judgment, and who will hereafter resurrect you in judgment. Blessed are You, O Lord, who resurrects the dead." He then recites the second blessing in the Amidah prayer from "You are eternally mighty" until "To resurrect the dead."
Click here to view the prayers in order according to the deceased's name.
לתפילות כסדרם לפי שם הנפטר לחץ כאן.