This Ritual Life Archive

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Here you will find out about ways to enhance your holiday experience, to celebrate or mark a meaningful life cycle event, and to deepen your experience of the everyday. Our authors are especially interested in hearing your responses to what they have written. So after reading, visit the Ritual Life discussion forum where you can join in conversation with CLAL faculty and other readers.

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Moving Out of Mourning and Back into Life

There are many customs associated with shiva, the period of mourning, that mourners can perform such as covering mirrors, not greeting or being greeted by visitors, and allowing others to cook for them and to tend to their household chores. All of these customs are designed to free mourners from worldly concerns while they are preoccupied in grief. When shiva ends, the mourners leave their house and walk around the block. The first step out the door symbolizes the return to the larger world outside of hearth and home which, during shiva, was a holding place for very wounded hearts. The mourners may now greet and be greeted by others and begin to resume normal daily activities. Terribly jarring at first, in the fullness of time, being woven back into a less heavy world will become second nature.


May it be Your will that I slowly accept your comfort into my heart. Help me to return to Your broken world by greeting all whom I meet with "Shalom" (wholeness and peace) and wishing them "Shalom" as we depart. Eternal One whose name is peace, grant my heart healing and shalom.

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya'aseh shalom, aleinu v'al kol yisrael, v'imru amen.

May the One who grants peace and wholeness above, grant peace and wholeness upon us and upon all Israel, and let us say, Amen.


At the conclusion of shiva, the mourners leave their house and walk around the block. Returning back home does not mean that mourning and being comforted are over, but it does signify that the time has come to restore connections to a living world and to begin to seek healing of one's broken heart. Greet all those you encounter, both while walking and on returning home, with "shalom," symbolizing your hope for increasing peace and wholeness.


(Returning home)

Blessed is the one who comforts me, who deepens my memory of my loved one and who helps me return to life.


Your lovingkindness sustains the living… (Amidah)

Your sun will not go down again,

Your moon will not depart;

For the Eternal One will be your light forever,

And your days of mourning ended.

(Isaiah 60:20)

Saying hello and goodbye are so often covers for the many things that we would prefer not to say or don't feel safe saying. In the shiva house, we learn to be silent or to say what we mean. (CLAL faculty)

When the others rise to say kaddish, I also rise, but I stand silent. I am with them, but I am not of them. I am a mourner on his way out of mourning, a man in the halfway house of grief, whose release from death's company has at last been granted. (Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish)

Shalom aleikhem.

May you know wholeness and peace.

(CLAL faculty)

CLAL's National Jewish Resource Center develops and publishes rituals that help to bridge the gap between our contemporary lives and the ancient wisdom of the Jewish tradition.

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