Following the Burial

There are many customs and traditions, many based on superstition, that surround the return from the cemetery. Because many of these are just that, customs, it is best to discuss these with your rabbi. Some of the customs Jewish people observe are: covering the mirrors in the house of mourning, having a pitcher of water outside the house for mourners to wash their hands, using a different route home from the cemetery, and a host of other customs. Your rabbi will be best able to guide you in which of these customs (and the reasons behind them) will be meaningful for you and your family.

One of the oldest most important and meaningful traditions the Jewish people have is that upon returning to the house of mourning following the burial, the community provides the first meal, Seudat Havra’ah. This meal of condolence, eggs or bagels are traditionally served to symbolize the continuity of life. It was probably begun in recognition that if left alone the mourners may not eat and would then become ill. Today we know that when we are grieving we are more susceptible to lowered resistance and can have an increase in sickness. Another reason for the community to provide the first meal is to set the tone for the period of Shiva. The mourners are not to be “hosting” a party nor are they to be concerned with taking care of other people’s needs. Rather, the community is to take care of the mourners.