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Mourning FAQ

Losing a loved one is always a tragedy. Sometimes that loss makes it feel like we have lost our grounding. Judaism seeks to be there for the mourner with a number of laws, customs, and teachings that are meant to honor our loved one and help accept our grief. Here are we have some answers to frequently asked questions about these teachings. If you would like a more in depth discussion of the treatment, I recommend the following website for More Information
Wishing you comfort,
Rabbi Jason Fruithandler
Who is a mourner?
In the Jewish tradition we separate between mourning and grieving. Grief is a feeling all people feel at a loss. Mourning is special religious category that has ritual responsibilities. Mourners are the seven immediate family members, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Daughter, Son, Spouse. All of the various mourning rituals are assigned to these relatives, but again, many choose to take them on.
I’ve just lost someone. Who do I call first?
If your loved one passed away in hospice care or a hospital they will take care of a lot of the logistics. If they passed away at home or elsewhere, the funeral home will guide you through the process of making sure your loved one gets to their final resting place. They will also help you schedule the funeral. It is also beneficial to let Rabbi Fruithandler and Cantor Cohen know as a soon as possible. They can be reached at 516-496-9100 or by email Rabbi here, email Cantor here.  They can help guide you through the ritual responsibilities as well as mobilize WJC’s community of support.
When do I start saying Kaddish?
The first Kaddish is said at the end of the funeral. The period of time between the passing and the funeral all mourners are considered to be in aninut. This is an in-between period in which there are no ritual responsibilities. The understanding is that planning a funeral and dealing with the shock at the same time can be so overwhelming that rituals of comfort wouldn’t be comforting until the funeral is complete.
Who says Kaddish?
Kaddish is the responsibility of the seven immediate family members: Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter, and Spouse. If you are one of these to the person who passed, then Kaddish falls to you. Many times additional family members choose to take on this responsibility as a sign of love and support.
How long do I say Kaddish?
Kaddish is said at all three services, morning, afternoon, and evening each day of the week. It is also traditionally said only in the company of a minyan (at least 10 Jews). WJC’s minyan service schedule can be found HERE. Traditionally Kaddish is said until 30 days after the funeral for all except the child who says Kaddish for their parent for 11 months or one year after the death.
How long is shiva?
Traditionally shiva is seven days long. Each service during this time period concludes with the mourner's kaddish.  At WJC we help organize shiva minyanim (a short service at your home) During Covid we can either arrange outside services or zoom services.  During this time it is customary to look at pictures of your loved ones, share stories, and take time to grieve. It is customary for the mourner to remain in their house for all seven days and then to get up and go for a short symbolic walk at the end to signify their re-entry into the world.


Yahrtzeit: What do I do? Shabbat? Weekday? Candles?

What is Yahrzeit?
It is the anniversary on the Hebrew calendar of the death of your loved one. There are a number of rituals that can honor this solemn occasion.
The candle - At home on the evening before the yahrzeit light a candle that will last for 24 hours. This is because a single day in the Hebrew calendar is from one evening to the next evening.  Most of the supermarkets in our area have them. If you have more than one yahrzeit on the same day, I recommend lighting one candle per relative, but you can still fulfill the custom with just one candle. It is not required, but many families choose to share a story about the loved one, or talk to another relative and share your feelings of loss. If the yahrzeit begins Friday night, it is proper to light the yahrzeit candle first and then the Shabbat candles. If the yahrzeit begins Saturday evening, it is proper to wait until an hour after sundown to light the candle.
Mourner’s Kaddish - Traditionally mourner’s Kaddish is said in the presence of ten Jews at the evening, morning, and afternoon service on the yahrzeit. The WJC weekday minyan is a special community that often takes the time to honor individual yahrzeit. If you come in the morning you will have the opportunity to hold the Torah and say a few words. The rabbi or cantor will then chant the el Malei Rachamim prayer. If you come in the evening, you will still have the chance to say a few words before Kaddish but we do not recite the el Malei and we do not take the Torah out. The weekday minyan schedule can be found HERE. Some choose to say Kaddish on the Shabbat before or after the day of the yahrzeit. Each Friday night and Saturday morning service we announce the yahrzeit of the coming week. We recite the names from the span of Friday through the following Sunday.
Tzedakah - Many choose to make a special gift to a charity that their loved one supported or would have supported in his/her life.
Writing - I personally strongly encourage mourners to sit and write on the day of the yahrzeit. Some write a letter to the person who has passed. Some write a letter to a future generation about their loved one. Some just sit and write and see what comes out. This practice can be very therapeutic and can help keep the memory strong.

Yizkor: What is it? What do I have to do?

Yizkor is the memorial service that is said four times a year:
  • Yom Kippur morning
  • Shemini Atzeret morning (8th day of Sukkot)
  • Last day of Passover
  • Second day of Shavuot 
This is a brief service that we conduct while the Torah is out. It involves communal and individual prayers. Many people also choose to light a yahrzeit candle for the 25 hours of a holiday in which we recite yizkor. You can follow the same procedure listed above for yahrzeit candles.
Do you have a different question? Ask me HERE
Wishing you comfort, 
Rabbi Jason Fruithandler
Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784