Chapter 15: The Shiva home

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Chapter 15: The Shiva home[1]



For seven days following the funeral, the mourners gather in the Shiva home. This is the area where the Davening takes place, and where the mourners recite Kaddish, and where family and friends come to comfort the mourners. It is forbidden for mourners to leave the Shiva home for the entire period of Shiva, with some exceptions, as explained in Chapter 19 Halacha 17. The Kabbalists write that the soul returns to the home where it lived and mourns there for seven days.[2] Davening in the home console the soul and bring it satisfaction.

1. Location of the Shiva Home:[3]

Ideally, the family is to sit Shiva in the area that the Niftar passed away, and consequently have the Minyanim of the Avel take place there. [If the family is unable to sit Shiva in the area that the Niftar passed away [such as if he passed away in the hospital], then they are to sit Shiva in the home that the Niftar used to live in.[4] If this too is not possible, then they are to sit Shiva at any location of their choosing. See Chapter 18 Halacha 1 A-B!]


The soul of the Niftar:[5]

The soul of the deceased is found in the home that it lived in throughout the seven days of Shiva. 


2. Cover mirrors and pictures:

The custom is to cover all mirrors in the Shiva home.[6] Likewise, the custom is to cover all pictures of people in the Shiva home.[7] [Alternatively, one can simply remove them or turn them around.] Some permit leaving pictures of great Torah sages and Tzaddikim.

Avel is sleeping elsewhere:[8] The above custom of covering mirrors and pictures applies also to the home that an Avel is sleeping in at night, even if it is a different home than the Shiva home.

Shabbos: Some[9] write the custom is to cover the mirrors even on Shabbos. Others[10] write the custom is to remove the covers some time before Shabbos.

Onen: Some[11] write that even an Onen is to cover the mirrors.

3. Lighting a candle:[12]

A [single[13]] candle is to be lit throughout the Shiva.[14] [Some are accustomed to light the candle using olive oil, although most people light a wax candle.[15] A seven-day wax or oil candle should be used for this purpose. If one cannot find a seven-day candle, one may use 24-hour candles and light them continuously throughout the Shiva.]

Where:[16] The candle is to be lit in the room, or the home, that the person passed away in. [If this is not possible, such as if they passed away outside their home, it is customary to light the seven-day candle in the Shiva home.[17] This applies whether this is the home of the deceased, or a different home.[18] There is no need however for it to be lit in all the Shiva homes, in case the relatives are sitting Shiva in more than one home.[19] One may however do so if he chooses.]

What to say upon lighting the candle:[20] Upon lighting the candle, one is to say that it is being lit “Leiluiy Nishmas Peloni [i.e. name of deceased] Ben Peloni [i.e. name of father of deceased].”

Who should light the candle:[21] The son [or daughter] of the deceased is to personally light the candle rather than delegating it to someone else to light.



A single seven-day wax or oil candle is lit by the child of the deceased, within the home of the deceased, or alternatively within the main Shiva home, throughout Shiva. Upon lighting the candle, one says that it is being lit “Leiluiy Nishmas Peloni Ben Peloni.”



If the burial occurred on Chol Hamoed and the Shiva will only begin after Yom Tov, when is the candle to be lit?[22]

The candle is to be lit immediately after the burial.


Is a seven-day candle to be lit throughout the first year?

It is a proper custom to do so. See Chapter 24 Halacha 3 for the full details of this subject.

Placing a bowl of water near the candle:[23]

Some are accustomed to place a bowl of water near the candle throughout the Shiva.[24] Practically, however, one is not to do so due to the prohibition of Darkei Emori.[25]

4. Preparing the Shiva home:

A. Low stools and chairs:

The mourners are required to sit on low stools throughout the Shiva, as explained in Chapter 19 Halacha 2. One is to thus arrange for low stools or crates to be brought to the Shiva home for the sake of the mourners, and for regular chairs to be brought for the sake of the visitors.

B. Preparing Yarmulkes; Siddurim; Tehillim; Mishnayos:

The Shiva home should be prepared with Yarmulkas, Tallis and Tefillin, Siddurim, a Tzedaka Pushka, and books of Tehillim.

C. Prepare copy of Hamakom Yinachem:

One should prepare a copy of the traditional parting message of comforters known as “Hamakom Yinachem” for visitors to recite upon exiting.

D. Sefer Torah:

It is customary to bring a Sefer Torah to the Shiva home, and read from the Torah during the days of Torah reading that occur during the Shiva [Mondays, Thursday’s, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah etc]. See Chapter 18 Halacha 5 for the full details of this subject!

E. Women’s section:[26]

The Shiva home should contain a women’s area that is sectioned off for the female mourners to be comforted by other women. One can place a Mechitza in the room, or simply have different sections of the house for the men and women.

F. Babies in a Shiva home?

If possible, one is to try to avoid bringing babies into the Shiva home.  See Chapter 19 Halacha 16C for the full details of this subject!

5. Food:

A. Serving refreshments:

Visitors eating in the Shiva home: The widespread custom of Ashkenazi Jewry is to avoid eating in the house of a mourner during Shiva, and hence refreshments are not served. In contrast, the widespread custom of Sephardic Jewry is to serve refreshments to the visitors. See Chapter 19 Halacha 1 in Q&A for the full details of this subject!

Lechaim:[27] It is not our custom to offer Lechaim in the Shiva home during the Shiva, with exception to the seventh and last day of Shiva, after Shacharis.

B. Bringing food to the Shiva home:

It is customary for neighbors and friends to bring meals to the mourners in the Shiva home.[28] Nonetheless, sweats and fancy desserts are not to be served.[29]

6. Fragrance/Besamim:[30]

The Shiva home is not to be sprayed with fragrance, incense or good smelling spices. It however is permitted to do so in order to rid the house of a foul smell.

7. The prayers and learning of Mishnayos in the Shiva home:

See Chapter 17-18!


[1] See Pnei Baruch Chapter 10; Nitei Gavriel Chapter 92

[2] Torah Leshma 520 in name of Arizal

[3] Rama 376:3 in name of Maharil; Rama 384:3 in name of Or Zarua; Levush 376:3; Mavor Yabok Imrei Noam 35; Kitzur SHU”A 207:5; Nitei Gavriel 91:1-2

[4] Nitei Gavriel 91:2 based on Pirkei Derebbe Eliezer 37; Rokeaich 316; Tanya 67 that the soul of the Niftar comes to the home that he lived during the Shiva

[5]  Mavor Yabok Imrei Noam 35; Daas Torah 384; Torah Leshma 520 in name of Arizal

[6] Drashos Chasam Sofer 2:387; Darkei Hachaim 32:6; Chelek Levi 132; Ginzei Yosef 143; Darkei Chesed p. 33; Nitei Gavriel 92:6; Pnei Baruch 10:4

The reason: Several reasons are recorded behind the above custom: 1) This is in exchange of the law of turning over the beds, which is done in order to diminish the area that was used as a medium to create children. We thus cover mirrors which is also a medium for a couple. [Drashos Chasam Sofer 2:387 based on Yerushalmi Moed Katan 5] 2) Alternatively, it is done in order so one does not pray in front of a mirror. [Chelek Levi 132] 3) Alternatively, it is done because evil spirits are found in the home during Shiva and we do not want their image visible in the mirror. [Ginzei Yosef 143] 4) Alternatively, it is done because when a person looks at a mirror, spirits are able to enter into his image found in the mirror and cause him damage after death. Therefore, we cover it during Shiva as there are more spirits found at this time. [See Gesher Hachaim in name of Yearos Devash, brought in Darkei Chesed ibid] Alternatively, it is done to diminish in joy. [Dibburei Emes 387]

[7] Darkei Chesed p. 33 based on Yerushalmi ibid; Pnei Baruch 10:4; Nitei Gavriel 92:6;

[8] Darkei Hachaim 32:6

[9] Nitei Gavriel 115:14

[10] Nachamu Ami p. 51

[11] Darkei Chesed p. 33 says to cover at time of Petira; Nitei Gavriel 25:7, however see Nitei Gavriel 80:15 that he contradicts himself

[12] See Nitei Gavriel 92:2-5

[13] Reply of Rav Groner that five candles are only lit for Davening and not throughout the Shiva

[14] Shivlei Haleket 21; Tanya 67; Nachalas Shiva 73; Chasam Sofer 1:142; Torah Leshma 520; Poskim brought in Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 6-7

The reason: Souls receive pleasure from light. [Rabbeinu Bechayeh Teruma] The candle helps to sooth the soul, which returns to the home where it lived and mourns there for seven days. [Torah Leshma ibid]

[15] See Gesher Hachaim p. 198 that based on Zohar some use olive oil candles; Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 6

[16] Torah Leshma ibid; See Poskim in Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 7 that the main Nachas Ruach for the Neshamah is in the home of the passing and not the Shiva home [if they are two different homes], or even the home of the deceased if that is not where he passed away; Lashon Chachamim 28 writes it is actually troublesome for the Neshamah to have the candles lit in another home

[17] Nitei Gavriel ibid and Poskim in footnote 9; See however Torah Leshma ibid and other Poskim in Nitei Gavriel footnote 7 and 9 that there is no point of lighting the candle in a different home.

[18] See Nitei Gavriel ibid

[19] See Poskim in previous footnotes; Rav Groner replied to me that the candle lit throughout the year is only lit in the house of the Niftar.

[20] Torah Leshma ibid

[21] Torah Leshma ibid

[22] Nitei Gavriel 92:3

[23] See Nitei Gavriel 92:4

[24] Minhagei Worms p. 102; Leket Yosher p. 96; See Nitei Gavriel 92 footnote 12

[25] Lechem hapanim 376 in name of Maaneh Lashon; Chochmas Adam in Matzeivas Moshe 13; Aruch Hashulchan 376:11; Darkei Chaim Veshalom 994; Misgeres Hashulchan 376; See Michaber 350

[26] Nitei Gavriel 85:8 footnote 10

[27] See Toras Menachem-Reshimos Hayoman p. 414 that the Rebbe Rayatz agreed to the Rebbe to have Lechaim distributed only on the 7th day. See Shulchan Menachem 5:282 footnote 5

[28] See Rabbeinu Yerucham, brought in Beir Hagoleh 378 and Beir Heiytiv 378:6 that some are accustomed for the Aveilim to have food catered by others throughout the entire Shiva. The reason is because it is forbidden to do Melacha during Shiva and the paupers may not have what to eat.  The Poskim ibid concludes that so is the custom of the Sephardim

[29] Nitei Gavriel 92:11 based on the prohibition to send presents to the mourner; See Rama 696:6 that one may not send Mishloach Manos to a mourner, and M”A 696:11 regarding Mishloach Manos of the Avel and that he is not to send sweets

[30] Michaber 378:7; Moed Katan 27a; Nitei Gavriel 113:14

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