Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thirty Days, The Shloshim

While the seven-day mourning period called shiva is well-known in the general American culture, Jewish mourning is actually a richly layered time period designed, seemingly, to ease the mourner back into daily life. As the sages recorded, “Three days for weeping [the first half of shiva], seven days of lamenting and thirty [to refrain] from cutting the hair and [donning] pressed clothes” (Talmud Moed Katan 27b). One whose mother or father passes away completes a 12 month period of mourning , and the yahrtzeit/hilula is observed on the anniversary of the passing. The thirty day mourning period, which is commonly referred to as shloshim, is observed by those people who sit shiva: father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, son and spouse. 

As noted in Moed Katan, two of the ways the period of mourning is continued after one “gets up from shiva” is by refraining from having one’s hair cut (this generally includes shaving one’s beard, although there are certain exemptions that can be discussed with one’s rabbi) and by not wearing new or even fresh clothing.  Additionally, mourners recite the Mourner’s Kaddish and avoid listening to music and attending celebrations such as weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs, although they may stop by to wish the celebrants “Mazal Tov.”

In the event of a Jewish holiday other than Purim or Chanukah (which are both post-Biblical), the mourning period ends in honor of the festival, whether or not the 30 days have been completed. 

The count of thirty days is derived from Deuteronomy 34:8, which records that the Children of Israel wept for Moses for 30 days after he died. At the conclusion of the shloshim, it is customary to make or host a siyyum (special celebration observed upon completing any set amount of Torah study) in honor of the deceased.

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