Should one sit shiva for a non-Jewish relative? Say your mother is Jewish and your father is not, and he dies.

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    similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/3842/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 5:30
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    I'm not sure of the Halakhic answer (though I'm having trouble finding information about a restriction against sitting shiva for goy relatives), but if you're deciding on what to actually do, then do what's best for you. Mourning is for the mourners, not the deceased.
    – Publius
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 6:58
  • @Avi that is not entirely true. Some parts are for the mourners and some for the deceased. Additionally, even the parts that are for the mourners are still considered obligatory in Halacha, even if someone personally doesn't find them meaningful.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 13:35
  • In what halachic sense does someone sit shiva? If I don't leave my house and sit on the floor for a week and allow comforters to visit and talk of my dead relative, am I "sitting shiva" or just mourning with those as the trappings of a universal woe?
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 15:47
  • @Dan I can imagine various kulas it would entail from davening related changes (tachanun, hallel, tefillin on day 1) to missing an onah to bittul torah. I agree it's nothing sooo serious.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


Because the parent is not Jewish, there is no chiyuv (requirement) for you to sit shiva for them.

That being said, there is a kibud av v'em (honor for father and mother) issue which must be contemplated when dealing with sitting shiva for a non-Jewish parent. Basically, there is a concern that the person would not be showing proper respect to his deceased parent by not sitting shiva. As kibud av v'em is one of the five things that a person is rewarded both in olam haba as well as olam hazeh (this world and the next), it is an important concern to contemplate.

Furthermore, if a non-Jew was to ask that person why he wasn't sitting shiva, observing shloshim or saying kaddish and he was to respond that his parent was not Jewish, this could lead to a chillul Hashem (desecration of the name of G-d) which could be detrimental to the Jewish people.

(This is more important when discussing gerim [converts]; if someone converts, halachically their birth parents are no longer their parents, as Avraham Avinu and Sarah take their place. However, resentment can arise if someone was to ask why they weren't sitting shiva and the response is "they're not Jewish" or "under Jewish law, they aren't really my parents anymore.")

So, there is room to work here. I would say that, in the case of a non-Jewish parent that the child wants to mourn by sitting shivah, there is a sufficient case to be made for allowing it. However, for a child who does not want to mourn, there is no absolute requirement for them to mourn.

  • If, as you say, they aren't actually the child's parents anymore, why is there a kibud av v'em issue to deal with?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 21:39
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    Hello binyomin, and welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thanks for this thorough answer. Do you have any sources to back up your arguments, or are they your own? In particular, Do you have any sources that prove that kibud av v'eim applies to non-Jewish parents or that telling a non-Jew that you are not sitting shiva for your parents because they are not Jewish constitutes a chillul Hashem?
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 21:41

My answer to this would be the same as I wrote to an earlier question about whether a convert can say kaddish for his birth-parents, with a minor caveat since you're speaking about an individual who has one parent who is Jewish and another who is not. In the case where the mother is Jewish, there is no question that the child says kaddish and sits shiva for his or her mother since the child is Jewish by birth (assuming that the mother is no longer with the non-Jew and not worshipping in a non-Jewish forum).

But in the case where the child's father was Jewish and the mother would not, the child would be considered non-Jewish, according to Jewish law, until she or he converted. Upon conversion, the convert is normally considered like a newborn child and the birth-parents are generally discounted. Babyl. Talmud Yevamos 97a-98b. Maimonedes (aka Rambam) holds that conversion breaks blood lines for purposes of mourning. Avel 2:3. So even if a father and his daughter both converted together, she would not sit shiva for him. Ibid. Although I haven't found a ruling for the case of a convert with a Jewish father, I would think it would be much the same things. The conversion has technically broken the father-daughter tie and she would honor her father in other ways, such as reading Psalms, or dedicating time to study Torah in his memory.

As I wrote before, my Rav told me that I could not sit shiva for my parents. The reasoning is that someone may assume -- based on the convert sitting shiva -- that the deceased parents were Jewish, and then make false assumptions about whether siblings are Jewish, also, and might consider introducing the non-Jewish sibling to a Jewish single for purposes of possibly getting married. This is a more serious possibility than saying kaddish for a non-Jewish parent because no one would necessarily know for whom you are saying kaddish. If a convert cannot sit shiva for a non-Jewish parent because someone might assume the parent was Jewish, then I think it is obvious that a child of a mixed marriage cannot sit shiva for her non-Jewish father.

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    What about the example presented in the question where there are no conversions involved? The mother is Jewish and the father is not Jewish. I think the OP is asking about whether he can/should sit shiva for the father.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 15:33
  • I would dispute the 'no question' in the 1st paragraph. I havent the source here now but it is well known that if she is still married to a non-jew one would not say kaddish after her. So the 'question' has to be asked if he is still married to her. Will look for a source.
    – user2709
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 19:44
  • מח כל מי שאין מתאבלים עליו, אין נוהגים עליו דיני אנינות, ולכן פורקי עול שאינם שומרי תורה ומצוות בזדון, ובעוה''ר כופרים בהשי''ת ובתורה הקדושה, ואינם בגדר תינוק שנשבה לבין הגויים, או שהיו נשואים לגוי [או גויה] ולא רצו לגיירם, וכל כיוצא בזה, שאין יושבים עליהם שבעה, כך אין נוהגים בהם דין אנינות. [ילקו''י אבלות סימן ז' עמוד קעא]
    – user2709
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 19:54
  • @shulem I should have caught that -- I saw numerous sources for your point and didn't even think to caveat the answer for that situation. Edit made. Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:25
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    @BruceJames, I don't understand why that is obvious. If the reason that a convert shouldn't say kaddish for his parents is because people might assume that the siblings are Jewish, then the reasoning doesn't apply to a non-Jewish father. The siblings are Jewish.
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 17:51

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