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Re: wake for Jerry Williams

Dan (and everyone else):

The Hebrew word "shiva" means "seven."  It stands for the seven days following the burial, which is a period of deep mourning.  The mourner must not, in general, leave his/her home, engage in any normal activities except eating or indulge in any form of entertainment.  Mirrors in the mourner's home are covered to prevent the mourner from indulging in vanity.  Visits during shiva are not meant to cheer the mourner.  They are for comfort, prayer and support, and their intent is to assist the mourner in remembering the life of the deceased.  During these visits, the mourner does not greet or thank the visitors.  Before sundown each day, prayers are offered in the home of the mourner.

"Shiva" is followed by "shloshim," which means "thirty."  During the next 30 days, life is supposed to slowly return to normal, but entertainment is still forbidden.  The mourner returns to his/her normal pursuits.

As to burial customs, it is correct that there is no "wake" for a Jew.  Once placed in the casket (by tradition, a plain pine box, unfinished, with dowels instead of nails used to close it), the casket is never opened again.  The deceased is dressed in plain clothing, and a man is buried with his tallit (prayer shawl).  Unless a Saturday or a major holiday intervenes (and Yom Kippur would certainly qualify as major), the rule is that burial occurs before sundown on the day after the death, although this rule is often broken in order that relatives and friends may arrive from out of town.

What I've described are the strict (Orthodox) customs.  Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews may observe all, some or none of these traditions.

Sid Schweiger
MIS Manager, Entercom Boston LLC
Phone: 617-779-5369
Fax: 617-779-5379
E-Mail: sid@wrko.com