Sheloshim, the First 30 Days of Mourning

Following shiva, the sheloshim period of less intensive mourning lasts until the 30th day after the funeral.

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Excerpted with permission from "Death and Mourning: A Time for Weeping, A Time for Healing," in Celebration and Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism, edited by Rela Mintz Geffen (Jewish Publication Society).

Following shiva, the primary [seven-day] mourning period, there is a secondary period of mourning called sheloshim, meaning 30, because it lasts for 30 days. Like shiva, one counts from the day of burial, and also like shiva, the last day is not full but ends following Shaharit [morning] services.

 

Although sheloshim is a period of mourning, it is far less intense than shiva. The mourners resume normal social and professional duties but are still restricted in certain ways. One does not cut one's hair during this time, a custom dating back to the Bible of letting one's hair grow wild when in mourning (Leviticus 10:6); this rule applies to both men and women. In addition, men are not to shave for the duration of sheloshim (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah, 390:1). Another restriction observed for 30 days is not attending social events or even religious celebrations (391:1). However, a mourner may attend the ceremony itself, such as a circumcision, as long as he does not stay for the festive meal that follows. Wearing new clothes during this period of time is also considered inappropriate.

This 30-day period eases the mourner back into normal routines by allowing the resumption of many but not all of one's regular patterns of social behavior. At the conclusion of the 30 days, a sheloshim memorial service is often held, at which time various Jewish texts are taught in memory of the deceased.

The end of sheloshim marks the end of the period of mourning for all relatives except parents who have passed away. Although many people believe and even behave otherwise, after sheloshim Kaddish is no longer recited for a spouse, sibling, or child. All mourning restrictions are lifted.

Judith Hauptman

Judith Hauptman is a professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. A popular lecturer on Judaism and feminism, she is the author of Rereading the Rabbis: A Woman's Voice.