for the coming year. It is appropriate to recite psalms at the graveside and
also the Memorial Prayer (El molei rahamim).
Judaism is a life-affirming and joy-affirming religion. At the same
time, it recognizes the preciousness of each individual and for this reason
prescribes rites of mourning that proclaim to the world the irreparable
loss that a single death brings to the family, the community, the Jewish
people, and the entire world. The laws of mourning also recognize the
difficulty a mourner has in confronting the rupture of a valued relationship, the finality of death, and the emptiness left in its wake. Rites of
mourning that take the mourner through the first few days, the first
week, the first month, and the first year ease the transition, enabling him
or her to come to terms with death and return to life in the real world in a
gentle, incremental way.
Mo'ed Katan 21a, Tosafot, s.v. Aylu devarim.
All references of this sort are to the Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah, section,
The Hebrew terms will be presented throughout in masculine form, even
though the English translation will render them, on occasion, in feminine form.
Keri'ah (rending the garment) used to be mandatory for all those present
at the moment of death. Since fear of loss of valuable garments discouraged
people from remaining with the dying, the ritual of keri'ah was moved to the
day of burial.
From this point on, shomerim are provided by the funeral home.
The Talmud (Mo'ed Katan 27a-b) does not speak of caskets but of plain and
For parents the rip is made on the left; for all others on the right.
The customary statement of condolence appears below in the section called
"Other Shivah Practices."
Medieval commentators permitted the study of Job, parts of Jeremiah,
Kinot, and the laws of mourning (Moed Katan 21a, Tosafot, s.v. Ve-asur likrot
ba-torah). Therefore, if one wishes to bring the mourner something, a book on
the laws of death and mourning is appropriate.