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The shivah period is technically divided into two parts:
Modern psychology has demonstrated that the first few days after the death of a loved one are a time of shock and disorientation. Long ago, our Jewish ancestors intuited this same phenomenon without benefit of scientific evidence.
Among those things Jewish tradition generally proscribes during shivah are:
Jewish tradition forbids public displays of mourning on Shabbat and therefore mourners may go to the synagogue on the Shabbat during shivah.
Yes. As noted earlier, Jewish law allows mourners to go to the Synagogue every day during shivah if there is no minyan at home.
We have already discussed the custom of covering mirrors in the house of mourning, which is also a way of emphasizing that personal appearance is simply not important at a time of grief. The same rationale holds for shaving, haircuts, cosmetics, bathing, and the wearing of new clothes.
It is customary to wear non-leather slippers or rubber or canvas shoes during shivah, except onShabbat. Leather shoes are not worn because they are considered a luxury and a sign of satisfaction with our status and the quality of our lives, a feeling antithetical to mourning. In addition, since the wearing of leather shoes is associated with going out of the house, there is no need to wear them during shivah.
During shivah, mourners are to refrain from all pleasurable activities, sex among them. Likewise, mourners traditionally will not read books for enjoyment, watch television, listen to the radio, or engage in other similar pursuits.
Yes. Traditionally, we read only those sections of the Tanach which deal with grief, specially Job, Lamentations, and portions of the book of Jeremiah. Additionally, it is certainly permitted to study the laws of mourning.
There are two other customs of shivah that bear mentioning. It is an established tradition that there be, whenever possible, a service twice each day, morning and evening (except on Shabbat), in the place of shivah. This allows the mourners to recite the Kaddish, without having to leave their homes during the shivah period. There is also a widespread practice that, at the conclusion of theshivah, the mourners walk around the block, symbolizing their re-entry into the world around them after the week of secluded mourning.