Chapter 8: The laws of Keriah
Halacha 1: The obligation
- It is an obligation for an Avel to tear his clothing at the event of the passing of a relative [for which he needs to keep Aveilus].
- Standing: One is obligated to perform the Keriah in a standing position.
Halacha 2: How to tear
- How much to tear: One must tear a Tefach worth of the clothing.
- Where to tear: One is not required to tear the border area [and may rather tear the middle of the garment].
- Hand versus scissor: One may perform the tear with the help of a vessel [such as a knife or scissor].
- In private: One [who is mourning relatives other than a parent] is to perform the Keriah in private, not in the presence of other people. He is thus to enter his hand inside his garment and tear it privately.
- What garment is one to tear: One [who is an Avel for relatives other than a parent] is only required to tear the most upper garment [that covers his chest].
Halacha 3: More tearing details & Tearing for death of parents versus other relative
- Front: One is to tear the front part of the garment.
- Changing Garments: One [who is in mourning for relatives other than a father or mother], may during the Shiva change from his torn clothing into untorn clothing. There is no need to tear the clothing that he changes into.
- Tearing for death of parents versus other relatives: All the above laws apply regarding one who is a mourner for relatives other than a parent. However, one who is in mourning for a father or mother, must tear in the following manner:
- Reveal chest: One who is an Avel for a parent is obligated to tear all his upper garments [that cover his chest] until he reveals his heart.
- Border area: One who is an Avel for a parent must tear the border area of the garment [i.e. Safah] until the torn area of the garment splits into two parts.
- Hand versus scissor: One who is in mourning for a father or mother, must perform the Keriah with his hands.
- Public: One who is an Avel for a parent must perform the Keriah in public in front of others.
- Undershirt: Even one who is in mourning for a parent is not required to tear his undershirt.
- Changing Garments: One who is in mourning for a parent is other than a father or mother], is required to perform a new Keriah onto all the upper clothing that he changes into during the Shiva.
- Chalitzas Kateif-Replacing one’s arm into the sleeve: One who is a mourner for a parent is to walk around with his arm and shoulder outside of its sleeve [i.e. Chalitzas Kateif] [from the time of death] until after the burial. After the burial, the sons may replace their shirts and sleeves to cover their arm and shoulders.
Halacha 4: More tearing details
- Children: A child [whose relative passed away] is to have his garment torn by others.
- One who is sick: An ill person is not to be informed of the passing and is not to have Keriah performed on him, as this may worsen his mental state.
- The woman are to be told to be quiet [about the death] while in his presence.
Halacha 5: Tearing after the death of one’s In-laws
- A man and women must tear on the passing of their father in-law or mother in-law due to the respect of their spouse.
Halacha 6: No shirt to tear
- Other relatives: A relative who did not have a shirt to perform Keriah, remains obligated to do so throughout the seven days of Shiva when he gets a shirt. If, however, seven days from burial have passed, then one who is mourning other relatives can no longer fulfill the Mitzvah of Keriah.
- Death of parents: However, one who is mourning a father or mother and has not yet done Keriah to his upper clothing, remains obligated to perform Keriah of all his upper clothing, even after seven days from burial. This obligation of doing Keriah for the passing of a parent is until the Shloshim.
- If one already has a torn garment: One who wears a previously torn garment and thus fools people into thinking that he performed Keriah, is considered to be stealing from the alive and the dead and belittling in their honor.
Halacha 7: Borrowed garment
- One may not perform Keriah on a borrowed garment, unless the lender knew that he borrowed it with intent to visit his deathly ill relative.
- In such a case, he may make the tear on the garment and then return the garment to the owner, and reimburse him for the cost of the tear.
- If the lender was not aware that he is visiting his deathly ill relative, then he may not tear it.
Halacha 8: Tore before death or for wrong relative
- Tore before passing: If one accidently tore before the passing of the relative, he does not fulfill his obligation, unless the passing occurred within Kdei Dibbur of the tearing.
- Tore for wrong relative: If one accidently performed Keriah under assumption that a certain relative passed away and then discovered it was a different relative who passed away, then he does not fulfill his obligation, unless it was informed of the correct relatives death within Kdei Dibbur of the tearing.
Halacha 9: Two relatives passed away simultaneously
- If two relatives passed away at the same time, one may make a single tear and fulfill his obligation of Keriah for both relatives simultaneously. However, if one’s parent and other relative passes away at the same time, one must first make a tear for the parent and then a second tear for the other relative.
Halacha 10: Using the same shirt for tears of more than one relative
- Within Shiva: For the passing of a second relative within Shiva of the first relative, one must make a completely new tear.
- After Shiva: For the passing of a second relative after Shiva of the first relative, one may simply add any amount to the original tear. The same applies to the passing of a third and fourth relative after Shiva that adding any amount to the original suffices.
- One may continue adding to the tearing for all future deaths of relatives until one reaches the area of the naval.
- Once the area of the naval is reached, one is to distance three fingers worth and start a new tear.
- Once the entire front part of the shirt is filled with tears, one is to turn it around and tear the back part of the shirt which is now in front.
- Once the top part of the shirt is torn one may flip it over and tear the bottom part which is now on top.
- Parent: For the passing of a parent, one must always make a new tear, even after Shiva of the first relative.