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Shiva on Shabbat

We are unfortunately sitting shiva for our mother right now. I know that shiva is not observed on Shabbat, but I’m unclear precisely how one goes about observing Shabbat. Are there any differences from an ordinary Shabbat?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I’m sorry first of all to hear of your family’s loss. May you and yours be consoled for your loss and may your mother be a worthy advocate for you in heaven.

In terms of mourning, it’s not entirely true that shiva is not observed on Shabbat. Only the public aspects of it are waived in honor of Shabbat. This means that you can put on clean clothes in honor of Shabbat, wear leather shoes, and sit on a regular chair. You should not shower though. (However, as during the entire shiva, you may wash off specific soiled areas on your body – even with soap if needed, as well as washing hands, face and feet in cold water.)

You may dress for Shabbat shortly before the day begins, no more than approximately 1.25 hours before sunset (reckoning with relative hours – each hour being 1/12th of the daylight duration).

You can attend synagogue both at night and day. At night you should arrive towards the end of Kabbalat Shabbat. The gabbai (sexton) will usher you in at a point towards the end of the services. When you enter, the congregants will offer you the standard wishes given to mourners (“May the Place comfort you…”), as you are ushered to your new seat. (Mourners do not sit in their regular place during mourning – although some do for the first Shabbat. You should ask your rabbi what he recommends.)

Shabbat itself will basically be as normal for you. However, private forms of mourning are observed. These include:

(a) Marital relations.

(b) Torah study: You may study that which mourners may learn. You are also permitted to review the weekly Torah reading, since that is obligatory.

(c) You do not say “bameh madlikin” in the Friday night prayers – since it is basically Torah study.

(d) You should not sing “Shalom Aleichem” at the start of the Friday night meal. You may sing other zemirot as regular. The reason for the distinction is that not to sing makes the mourning conspicuous. It is thus a form of public mourning which may not be done on Shabbat. By contrast, omitting Shalom Aleichem is not as obvious a sign of mourning, since at times when people are in a hurry to begin the meal they do skip it. (Heard from R. Pinchas Waldman; see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 271, MB 1 there; Y.D. 400:1.)

(e) You do not bless your children on Friday night.

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