X. After Shiva
After shiva, normal occupations and family activities are resumed. During the remaining portion of sheloshim, the thirty day period that commences on the day of the funeral, it is customary to refrain from public entertainment and parties with music. It is permissible to plan for and attend such events as a family wedding or bar or bat mitzvah ceremony during this period, but it is traditional to refrain from dancing and exuberant celebration.
Jewish tradition establishes one year as the official period of mourning for a parent and thirty days for other close relatives. It calls for daily recitation of the kaddish prayer in memory of the deceased at a public worship service attended by a minyan. In our congregation, it is more customary for mourners to attend weekly Shabbat services as often as possible, to recite kaddish with the congregation. The names of deceased loved ones are read at Friday evening services for four weeks following the funeral. Some find it comforting to recite kaddish privately when they are unable to attend services at the synagogue.
On Yom Kippur afternoon and the morning of the last day of the three “pilgrim festivals,” Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot, a service is held at the synagogue. The service includes a yizkor or memorial section with traditional prayers in memory of loved ones. As in the case of the anniversary of death, it is a mitzvah to light a memorial candle at home prior to sundown on eve of each of the four holidays.
It is not customary to visit the cemetery in the month following the funeral. As the intent of this custom is to spare the bereaved the pain such a visit can cause, it should be considered as guidance, rather than an inflexible rule. Thereafter, visitation is unrestricted, but it is not customary to visit on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. The month prior to the high holy days is a common and appropriate season for such visits. The tradition of placing a small stone on the grave marker hearkens back to the time when it was a family responsibility to maintain loved one’s graves. Today, it testifies that the grave has been visited by those who remember the person buried there.
Unveiling/Stone Setting/Dedication of the Grave Marker
Jewish tradition permits the dedication of a headstone or grave marker any time after the end of sheloshim. However, it is more common to wait until approximately a year after the death to hold the “stone-setting” or “unveiling” ceremony, which is so named because the cover is removed from the marker at that time. The ceremony, which is brief and without a eulogy, may take place on any day except Shabbat or a Jewish holiday and may be conducted by a rabbi, cantor or a knowledgeable lay person.
It often takes about a year to adjust to a loss and to turn to the future with optimism and energy. Should you need assistance, one of the rabbis can help you choose the wording for the grave marker, which should be ordered two months or so before the date of the unveiling ceremony. On that day, the family and dear friends gather at the grave and return home afterward. The cemetery should be notified of the date and time of the ceremony to insure that the gates are open, that the tombstone or marker is in place, and that another funeral or unveiling is not scheduled in the immediate vicinity of the grave at that time. The cemetery can refer you to a reputable monument company that can prepare the headstone or marker to your specifications. It is contrary to Jewish tradition to include a portrait of the deceased on the marker.
It is customary to observe the yahrzeit, or anniversary of the death of a loved one by attending services at the synagogue and reciting kaddish, and by lighting a small yahrzeit candle at home at or near sundown on the eve of the anniversary of the day of death. These candles can be obtained at most grocery stores.
Our congregation’s custom is to read the name of deceased loved ones of its members at the Shabbat services closest to the date of death on the secular calendar. Congregants may arrange for the name of a loved one to be inscribed in the congregation’s Book of Memory and to be notified in advance each year of the Friday evening service at which their loved one’s name will be read. In the alternative, one may call The Temple office to arrange for a name to be read on a particular Shabbat or one may speak the name aloud when invited to do so at the end of the service. If you cannot be present on the closest Shabbat, please let the office know and we will gladly read the name on a nearby date when you can attend.
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