Origin of the Shloshim Mourning Period
When Moses died, the Jews wept for 30 days. The Talmud later recorded a timeline of mourning: three days for weeping, seven days for lamenting, and thirty days for special mourning garments and for not cutting the hair. (Moed Katan 27b). A Rabbinical innovation at the time, observing a brief 30-day mourning period set the Jewish People apart from their neighbors’ veneration of the dead and long term mourning practices.
Who Is Mourned During Shloshim
Close relatives, parents, spouses, siblings and children, for whom shiva observances were marked, continue to be mourned throughout the Shloshim period. This marks the end of mourning for all relatives except parents, who are honored with a yearlong mourning period.
How to Count the Days of Shloshim
Like Shiva, a fraction of a day is considered a whole day of mourning. Shloshim is counted from the time of burial until the morning of the thirtieth day.
How Is Shloshim Observed? Basic Shloshim Restrictions
Most Shiva restrictions are lifted at the onset of Shloshim. The mourner is slid back into life. The mourner works, leaves the home, makes love, and wears makeup and perfume. Mirrors are uncovered. Real chairs are sat upon. Mourners lead synagogue services, say Kaddish, and accept synagogue honors.
Everything goes back to normal with a few exceptions. Sources of external joy are kept at a distance. Curtailing enjoyment of music, concerts, sports events, even limiting television to just news programs are some ways to keep this aspect of Shloshim. Keeping a limited amount of restrictions allows mourners to acknowledge the cloud of grief still surrounding them.
Appearances distinguish the mourner as one who is not quite back to normal. Not taking a haircut or not shaving is a way to observe Shloshim. The fresh feeling of wearing brand new clothing is postponed until after Shloshim. Some mourners choose to continue wearing their mourning ribbon to silently explain their state of mind.
Holidays and Happy Occasions During the Shloshim Period
Some Jewish holidays take precedence over the Shloshim period and abrogate its observance. Letting go of personal mourning for the sake of the community’s celebration is part of the Jewish view that life is chosen over death. The actual details of which holidays end Shloshim are many, and a rabbi will be able to explain them. When abrupt ending of Shloshim is too hard, some choose to continue the signs of mourning and others suspend them until after the holiday is over.
Celebrations are avoided during the Shloshim period. Whether this means skipping a wedding reception or opting out of a pleasure cruise is a personal choice. It may be more comfortable to attend a brit or bat/bar mitzvah service, but not the party that follows. Summoning a smile while a heart is still breaking is difficult. Joyous occasions unite soulful happiness with physical pleasures of food, friends, and music. A mourner is just beginning to repair the breach of body and soul that death of a close relative has wrenched apart. Jewish traditions considered forcing the two together by permitting a mourner to join in a party atmosphere too hard a task.
In many cases, mourners proceed with plans to marry during Shloshim. The mitzvah associated with getting married outweighs the duty to mourn, not to mention the consideration given to the incredible expense of canceling a wedding that falls into the halachic category of hefsed merubeh, a great [monetary] loss.
Cemetery Visitation Before Shloshim Ends
A mourner’s tenuous state of mind is part of the reason why Jewish tradition generally advised visiting the cemetery before the first 30 days of mourning were over. No halacha forbids a visit to the cemetery, but there is consideration given to Jeremiah’swords about excessive grief: “Weep not for the dead, neither bemoan them” (Jeremiah 22:10).
Kaddish Kaddish is recited until the end of Shloshim for those mourning spouses, siblings and children. After the loss of a parent, the period of mourning and saying Kaddish extends for a year.
Marking the End of Shloshim
As Shloshim ends there is a custom to gather friends and relatives together to learn a Jewish text to honor the memory of the deceased.