Sunday, 12 October 2014

Laws of Mourning when someone passes away during Sukkot

The mourning practices we follow can be very comforting for a family at the very difficult time of the loss of a relative. However, there are times in the Jewish calendar where mourning practices are abridged or delayed. For example if a person passes away the day before one of the Jewish Festivals, the seven day mourning period known as shiva is cut short by the Yom Tov. This is because the collective joy of the holiday cannot coexist with any type of mourning. This unique halakha makes sense logically but can be very difficult for the mourners as they can feel cheated by not having the ability to sit shiva properly.

The following laws I am about to explain are for the situation when a person passes away either on Yom Tov or during Hol HaMoed (the intermediate days of the holiday). The following laws have been compiled for the Babani family and are written L'ilui Nishmat Sara Bat Esther Babani who passed away Shabbat Hol HaMoed Sukkot.

When a person passes away on the holiday the mourning laws are very different. The normal breakdown are the laws of the onen - for family members before their loved one is buried, the shiva - the seven day period following the burial of their loved one, the sheloshim - the 30 day period following the funeral and finally the laws of the year following the burial of a loved one.

Sara's children and sisters fell into a category of mourning called aninut - which means being in a period of intense grief where they are exempt from tefillah or making berakhot. They are also forbidden to eat meat or wine. The reason they are exempt from tefillah is because the close family members are too busy making funeral arrangements. However, on Shabbat these laws do not apply because no arrangements can be made. The children remain in aninut until Sara is buried on Monday morning.

Since Sara is being buried on Hol HaMoed Sukkot, a time of great joy for the Jewish people, Jewish Law states that eulogies are forbidden. The reason given that the point of the eulogy is to make the extended family and friends sad and feel a part of the grief that Sara's children will be going through. Since this is not appropriate on Hol HaMoed no eulogies will be made. Instead a short sketch of her life and some comments of her good character traits will be made. (Some time later in the year, proper eulogies can be given.)

The burial takes place as for any other burial and the children begin to say kaddish from the funeral. Where the big changes start is after burial. The family cannot sit shiva until after the Shabbat after Simchat Torah. Keriah - the tearing of the clothes still takes place after the funeral and is done at home. But the shirt that is torn is taken off immediately and is put away until the mourning can take place at the conclusion of the Shabbat after Simchat Torah. The mourners still have the seudat havra'ah but instead of eggs, olives, raisins and rolls they are given cookies. Instead of eating the meal on the floor or on low chairs they eat the meal at the table. 

Ashkenazim, follow the position of the Rama that states that no public displays of mourning can be done during Hol HaMoed. So their practice is to do keriah after Shabbat followed by the meal for mourners. But they do say Barukh Dayan HaEmet following the burial.

Friends can come and visit the family members during the rest of Hol HaMoed and Yom Tov but they should also make sure to visit the family members during the actual shiva after the holiday.

Although publicly the shiva does not start until after Shabbat concludes, the last day of Yom Tov, in our case Simchat Torah is considered the first day of the shiva and Shabbat would be day two. As such Sara's children and sisters would get up from Shiva on Thursday morning (Oct 23rd). Throughout Hol HaMoed the family may eat festive food and wear nice clothes and sit on regular chairs. They may show no outward signs of mourning. However, private signs of mourning must be kept.

May God comfort the Babani Family and remove death from the world. 

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