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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


This week’s parasha opens with the death and burial of our matriarch, Sarah. This provides us a great opportunity to take a look at traditional shiva call etiquette, which unfortunately, many people are unfamiliar with. The overall idea of paying a shiva call is not just to show support for a mourner but to allow them to talk and emote. Therefore, the only speaking by a visitor at a shiva house should be to ask the mourner questions about the person who passed away. Needlessly speaking with anyone else at a shiva house is considered disrespectful and inconsiderate of the mourner.  There’s no need for food to be served at a shiva house. The whole and only focus when coming to pay a shiva call is being there for the mourner – nothing else. Tragically, many times a shiva home becomes a social event, where people are standing around schmoozing and eating with total disregard for the mourner. 

There’s a great book written by Lori Palatnik called: Remember My Soul: What to Do in Memory of a Loved One - A Path of Reflection and Inspiration for Shiva, the Stages of Jewish Mourning, and Beyond. 

The following is her one-page primer on how to comfort a mourner, which I highly recommend a person read before making a shiva call.