What not to Bring and What to Bring to a Shiva House

flowers at the farmers market - not something to bring to a shiva house
One usually doesn’t bring flowers to a Jewish house of mourning

Someone wrote to me asking whether one send flowers to a Jewish mourner. In general, she was wondering what to bring to a shiva house. Here is part of my response:

It is not customary to send flowers to a shiva house. The best thing to bring, in my opinion, is yourself. Even if you don’t know what to say, just sitting with the mourner for a half hour or an hour is worth a lot.

I suggested if she did want to bring something, she could go to a kosher store and ask what she might bring. However, in my experience, people brought kosher pastries that we really didn’t need. She might ask a relative what the mourners might need – there may be something that a way to help out that isn’t readily apparent. I still say the best is to bring to a shiva house is yourself. Especially bring your ears – if your friend is ready to talk, being a good listener is a wonderful gift.

What do you think?

See more posts on shiva and Jewish mourning:

8 thoughts on “What not to Bring and What to Bring to a Shiva House

    • I didn’t say this in my post, but my post on shiva seems to be the top visited post on my site. Since I unfortunately have too much experience with shiva, I thought I would write a bit more on the topic.

      I’m glad you find this useful. I’m guessing others who never leave a comment will find it useful as well.

  • I totally agree with what you say…our presence during shiva, can be more meaningful than any food, words, etc., can be.

    Often, just knowing someone is there for you, in person, is comforting. Knowing that the person will listen to you, or will sense the need for some exhibition of needed quietude within the circumstances, can be a gift to the mourner/s.

  • I think that death is something people are simply unprepared for, and then when there is a particular ritual or ceremony that is unfamiliar then the awkwardness is intensified. The important thing though is that people’s wishes need to be honored, and so it’s fantastic that you’ve been sharing this process with us Leora in your blog. I too also read the longer post on how to pay a Shiva call – I was somewhat familiar with it, though I’m not Jewish, but had read about Shiva before.
    It sounds a really intense (in a good way) & meaningful experience, that Christian burials sometimes lack. There’s usually the sense of -lets get this over with, as opposed to allowing the time to experience one’s feelings and give them their due.

    • A.K., glad you are reading these posts and learning from them.

      I have found that non-Jewish friends that learn about shiva wish they could have something similar to grieve for their loved ones. Even after the 7 days, there are then 30 days and then a full year of mourning rules related to loss of a parent. And then each year we commemorate a yahrzeit, an anniversary of the parent’s death.

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