We read in pirkei avos (4:18) the following:

רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר, אַל תְּרַצֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרְךָ בִשְׁעַת כַּעֲסוֹ, וְאַל תְּנַחֲמֶנּוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמֵּתוֹ מֻטָּל לְפָנָיו, וְאַל תִּשְׁאַל לוֹ בִשְׁעַת נִדְרוֹ, וְאַל תִּשְׁתַּדֵּל לִרְאוֹתוֹ בִשְׁעַת קַלְקָלָתוֹ

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Do not try to appease your friend during his hour of anger; Nor comfort him at the hour while his dead still lies before him; Nor question him at the hour of his vow; Nor strive to see him in the hour of his disgrace.

The meforshim explain the obvious reason why - for example:

Rabeinu Yona:

כי בשעת העצבון הנחמה מוספת עליו כעס - יבוא לומר דבירים לא טובים - "As at the time of sadness, consolation [brings] anger to him, and he will come to say things that are not good"



שמתוך צרתו עומדת בפניו אינו מקבל תנחומין - "Since his pain is (lit.) standing before him. he will not accept the consolation."

While this may sound like all consolation is permitted after the burial, the Tosafos Yom Tov writes:

"WHILE THE BODY LIES BEFORE HIM. Midrash Shmuel writes in the name of Rashbatz that the mishna should read “do not comfort him while he is in mourning,” and that the versions that read “while the body lies before him” are the result of a deliberate alteration of the text to account for fact that after burial, people would make rows and comfort the mourner, as is mentioned in Avel Rabbasi and in the Talmud in Berachos 16b. He says that there is no reason to change the text, however, because it doesn’t say “during his days of mourning” or “during his mourning process.” The text says “while he is mourning,” i.e. while he is in mournful grief. [I still feel that this is difficult to reconcile with the practice of making rows. According to this, if the bereaved is indeed in a state of mournful grief they shouldn’t comfort him, and we do not find the Sages making this distinction.]"

Indeed if one looks at the Lechem Shamayim's commentary here it implies that sometimes it is better not console them until after the shiva or shloshim.

In my experience, we generally make a point of doing the Levayo at the earliest opportunity at which point the shiva begins soon after. At almost the first opportunity the ovel is confronted by a constant stream of consolation and people seeking to comfort them.

Every mourner is in a state of intense grief, and yet in my experience we give constant consolation shiva and shloshim? How can we ever know if someone is more in pain than any other mourner and resultantly shouldn't hear consolation?

Sources for answers are preferred please.

  • If the question is why you see people console everyone during shiva, the answer could just be that people are mistaken/unaware (many also ignore the rules of not speaking till spoken to). If it's how to tell who's angry, then seemingly context and social clues. I don't have a source for this of course.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 13:22
  • Notably, the Kaufman and Parma manuscripts of the Mishna have the text as we do שמתו מוטל לפניו. I wonder if there is really any evidence for this variant. It could simply be we don't paskin like that variant because it's not the primary text.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 15:32
  • I think it is just strange that we are not more aware. The whole format of aveilus (mourning) is geared towards bringing about nechomo (consolation), particularly the shiva period. And yet we see in Tosfos Yom Tov and Lechem Shomayim above that one should refrain from consolation if the mourner is too stricken with grief. But there does not appear to be any formal framework in place for such situations i.e. the shiva still goes ahead etc.
    – Dov
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 17:35
  • "The whole format of aveilus (mourning) is geared towards bringing about nechomo (consolation), particularly the shiva period." Why do you say this? I wouldn't have assumed that
    – Double AA
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 17:41
  • I'm limited by space to respond in full but first at levayo participants line up either side of mourner and recite the consolation statement -"המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון ירושלים" - Subsequently the mourners have the סעודת הברא - the meal of consolation. followed by a week of shiva in which visitor partake of the mitzvah of nichum aveilim so consolation is indeed a common thread
    – Dov
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


The Lechem shamayim that you quote seemingly answers your question. His discussion is about who should initiate the nechama during the shiva. i.e. when a person goes to be Menachem avel, should he start speaking or should he wait for the avel to start?

He says that during the shiva we should wait for the avel to indicate that he wants to start talking. Sometimes it could even be only after the shiva that a visitor should initiate divrei nichumim.

In this sense this fits with the general custom of waiting for the avel to start talking before we make comments (unless it's clear from the circumstance that the avel wants us to start talking to him.)

Of course, there are people who don't know better and start talking before the avel; there are even some people who think it's beneficial to distract the avel and talk about other things. But they are mistaken, albeit well-meaning.

So I think the sources (especially the lechem shamayim) that you bring answer your question:

1) At the funeral, after the burial, we make shuros and offer (i.e. initiate) nechumim. per the lechem shamayim this is done lichvod the niftar.

2) During the week after we come to pay a shiva call (i.e. menachem avelim) but we should not initiate divrei nichumim, we should rather wait for the avel.

3) If there are multiple people then the Lechem Shamayim says it's proper for the avel to initiate lchvod hatzibbur.

4) When the avel is a bit more miyushav- which might be during the shiva, or even after shiva or even after shloshim- then it's proper to actually initiate dvrei nichumim with the avel.

  • What you write about waiting for the mourner to speak is supported by the gemara on Moed Katan 28. More generally, I think this is an area where ha kol l'fi hainyan. My own practice, which I learned from my rebbeim, is to always either ask or feel out what the avel wants to talk about. Some want "comfort," some just want to talk about the deceased, some want to talk about the death, some want to be distracted and talk about other things, etc.
    – Avraham
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 10:28

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