Saturday, September 1, 2012


My friend's father passed away this week after a long illness.

Today I took the youngest Pinks to our friends' house to make a shiva call. Shiva is the formal, seven-day mourning period in Judaism, one that first-degree family members observe. The word shiva comes from the Hebrew shi-VAH, which means seven. During this time the family members receive visitors. It is traditional and expected that these visitors bring food. We baked cookies this morning.

My friend's family are Israeli emigres. His wife's family are Russian emigres. The two met at an American law school. Their home is a mix of Jewish artifacts and antiques. My friend has the most interesting tattoo I have ever seen. In time I will get up the nerve to ask to photograph it then blog about it.

Today's conversation was in many tongues and the mourning traditions from many cultures were tied together by Judaism. Russians, for example, don't leave keys on a table. Immediate family wears a keriah, or torn outer-layer-garment during shiva. Sometimes this is a tie. Sometimes this is a torn ribbon.

I did not know my friend's father but was glad to support the family and to teach The Pinks this part of our religion. It gave us an opportunity to talk about what you say to someone when they're grieving. "I'm sorry." "I'm sorry for your loss." Thing 2, our animal lover, insisted on paying special attention to the family dog as "he must be upset, too."

Shiva is not gloom and doom; it's story telling and laughter and memories in addition to tears. The Pinks played outside with the family's daughters, who they know from Religious School. And I ate some piroshki, Russian puff pastries filled with apples. Divine.

1 comment:

Thom Singer said...

Sorry for your friend's loss.

I think such traditions are wonderful - and making sure the kids learn them is important!

The Irish have a "Wake"... which is a celebration of the person's life with joy and stories. Of course the Irish do it with a little drinking, too! ;-)