what are the practical halachos one must follow after hearing of the death of a relative one is supposed to sit shiva for? (until the burial)

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    To whoever comes across this page seeking advice because they recently actually lost a loved one, we share our deepest condolences with you (especially if you are a Yodeyan whom we know). Please, though, even in this time of stress remember not to trust this page for actual guidance and speak with your local rabbi ASAP who can guide you through this challenging time.
    – Double AA
    Nov 24, 2015 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


I would recommend checking out this link: Chabad.org mourning also see here It was very informative when I recently looked up some Halachos.

A quote from that site:

Before the burial. Laws and Rituals:

"The True Judge" blessing. Those present at the time of death recite the blessing: Baruch Dayan Ha'emet -- "Blessed be the True Judge." (The full version of this blessing is customarily said at the keriah--the "rending of the garments"--during the funeral service.

Covering the body. After death is definitely established, the eyes and mouth of the deceased should be closed and a sheet or other cover drawn over the person's face; there is a tradition for a child or close relative to do this--if he or she can cope emotionally with it.

Candles. The body of the deceased should then be placed on the floor, and candles should be lit near the deceased's head.

(When death occurs in the hospital, the above may not be practically possible; but all other customs should be observed. What cannot be done there should be done later at the funeral chapel.)

Forgiveness. While lowering the body to the floor, forgiveness should be asked of the deceased.

Psalms. After lighting the candles, Psalms should be recited, including Psalms 23, verse 17 of Psalm 90, and Psalm 91. (Click here for texts of these Psalms in Hebrew, transliteration and translation.)

Arrange for the "Taharah." The family's rabbi and the funeral home should be called at this point--if it has not already been done. The funeral home should be informed that a "taharah" will be needed.

Dignity of the deceased. The human body is sacred, and its integrity, privacy and dignity are vigilantly protected by Jewish law and tradition. Also after the person has passed away, the body which was the vessel and vehicle to the soul deserves our reverence and respect. Anyone in the presence of the deceased should act with the same respect and deference toward the deceased we would show for the person when alive.

Watching over the body. Where possible, there should always be someone with the body until the funeral. This is know as shemira ("honor guard"). Those according this honor to the deceased should recite prayers or psalms during their "shift," as this brings comfort to the soul of the deceased.

No autopsy should be performed (except under special circumstances) and the body should not be embalmed, displayed or cremated -- all of which are gross desecrations of the body's sanctity according to Jewish law and tradition. (For further discussion see the following section, Funeral and Burial, and In Detail and Readings.)

The burial should take place as soon as possible, preferably on the very day of the passing, and should be delayed only for truly important reasons, as sanctioned by Torah law. (See In Detail.)

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    If any of this is a direct quotation, please edit to mark it as such to avoid plagiarism/lying/etc.
    – Double AA
    Nov 24, 2015 at 20:27
  • @WhyEnBe Does one continue to endeavor to make arrangements for the burial on Shabbos?
    – SAH
    Aug 7, 2018 at 4:51

Note that if someone is out of town and cannot help with the arrangements, the halachos of aninus may not apply. Check with your LOR for the specific details.

Note that [Search domain download.yutorah.org] download.yutorah.org/2009/1025/735318.doc discusses whether or not the onein must keep the halachos of aveilus as well as the special halachos of aninus. See there for the details. However, here is the final summary.

II. Halacha Limaaseh

A. טור 341:5 – Quotes all the shitos.

B. שו"ע YD 341:5 -
1. מחבר: As long as meis is not buried, can wear shoes, not chayav atifas harosh, no kefias hamita. But אסור to sit on chair or bed.

  1. רמ"א: Kol shekein אסור b’tashmish. And Yesh Omrim that אסור b’rechitza, sicha, simcha, she’eilas shalom, haircut.

 But strange b/c this really all seems to be the רמב"ן, not really a machlokes מחבר/רמ"א?

C. Aruch HaShulchan – Thinks BY really paskens like the רמ'/Ritz Geius, but didn’t quote tashmish. And רמ"א adds that even acc to this shita should be machmir for tashmish (like תוס'). And then he quotes shitas רמב"ן.

*We generally assume like the רמב"ן/רמ"א that the issurim are chal right away. Ppl do not get haircuts, shave, have tashmish, etc. as soon as the person dies.

The halachos of aninus (status of the relatives before the burial) are the same as they have always been. Here is a summary of those halachos

Before the Burial

From the time of death until after the burial, the close relatives, which are the father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother and sister, are considered onenim, which means:

    They should be involved in the burial preparations

    They are to respect the deceased:
        by not behaving in a light-headed manner
        by not eating in the presence of the body
        by not eating meat or drinking wine

    They are exempt from mitzvos:
        not to pray, or say Amen or put on tefillin
        not to say berachos 

(even for eating, berachos are not required, but the hands are washed for bread without a beracha)

They may not bathe, take haircuts, or do work, but they may wear shoes until the burial at the cemetery. They may also leave the house to take care of the needs of the deceased.

An autopsy is forbidden because the Torah considers it a defilement to the departed. In case one is requested by authorities to do so, call the local Orthodox funeral home or your LOR. As a practical matter, one should not try to deal with the authorities oneself. They will often treat one as "upset" and to be ignored. The local Orthodox funeral home will often have dealt with this problem in the past and know who to call about the matter. They will usually know when the halacha would allow an autopsy or the name of a rabbi who is an expert in these matters.

The deceased may not be left alone. A person is therefore designated to serve as a shomer (watchman) in honor of the deceased. Since the watchman is exempt from mitzvos while on duty, it is helpful to appoint two watchmen so that they may relieve each other. (If there is no alternative, the watchman may leave for brief periods.) They may not study Torah, but they may say Tehillim (Psalms). They may not eat while on guard. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 195:11)

Beware of funeral homes that are ignorant of the Torah laws and Jewish traditional customs. Check with a competent Orthodox Rabbi or with a reliable friend for a reference to authentic Jewish services and proper pre-burial preparations for the deceased (taharah).

  • what about kriah? where/when does that fit in? thanks
    – ray
    Nov 24, 2015 at 19:47
  • @ray The Kriah is performed by the mourners prior to the burial, either during the funeral service or at the gravesite. Chabad.org Nov 24, 2015 at 19:50
  • @ray Keria is performed upon hearing the news right after reciting Tzidduk HaDin/Baruch...Dayan HaEmet (ShA YD 339:4). (It so happens that you see many end up doing this at the funeral/burial bc they don't know Halacha and that's the first time they're meeting up with a rabbi who does who can properly instruct them...) Note any clothes worn from then until the end of Shiva for parents need Keriya too.
    – Double AA
    Nov 24, 2015 at 20:18
  • sabbahillel you neglected to mention that an Onein is forbidden to have Tashmish HaMittah.
    – Double AA
    Nov 24, 2015 at 20:19
  • @DoubleAA OK thanks. I will add it. Actually, [Search domain download.yutorah.org] download.yutorah.org/2009/1025/735318.doc goes into detail and there are those that say that it is asur and others that it is not asur. Nov 24, 2015 at 20:41

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