Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shivah

KM is a student at the University of Southern California studying architecture. She is from Encino, CA and has lived her whole life in Southern California. She comes from two Israeli parents and has a strong Jewish background as most of her family lives in Israel. She attended a private Jewish high school and learned Hebrew over the course of her school career. She actively participates in many holiday traditions and prayer rituals.

Do you have any traditions for birth or death in Judaism?

KM: After someone passes away, we have a funeral that’s called a Shivah that has some traditions or changes specific to Judaism. It is basically where you must bury them immediately after they die, there is no waiting period or planning of a funeral, they have to be buried straight away. Then you sit and pray for them so it is like we have the funeral after they are already put in the ground.

Are there any variations to this?

KM: Well there are exceptions. For example, when my grandfather died we could not have a Shivah for his because he died on Rosh Hashanah, which is a high holiday. You aren’t allowed to have Shivahs when people die on a high holiday because that is respected over death. You are already praying on the holiday anyways as well so you can sit and pray then just not at the site of where the person is buried. It was sad not to be able to have a Shivah for my grandfather but we respect the high holiday and it is an honor to die on a high holiday.

Analysis:

A Shivah has the same significance as a normal funeral but it has it differences to the normal ceremony and reception. The ceremony is a week-long of sitting and praying for the deceased. It is very important to Jewish people that they bury their dead as soon as possible. There is no true reason for it other than what people deduce from the Torah. The Torah says that a body should be buried within 24 hours unless if on a high holiday where you cannot work. It is very specific yet tells no details why.

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