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If Yom Tov falls during the 30-day period of mourning (sh'loshim), the sh'loshim is terminated. This morning when the minyan got to the mourners' kaddish I noticed the pained expression on the face of someone who, a couple weeks ago, lost her husband of 60 years, and it made me wonder what the reasoning is.

I recall once hearing that the reason is that Yom Tov is festive and we shouldn't then go back to mourning. But Shabbat is festive too, and we don't end sh'loshim (or shiva) for Shabbat; we suspend it. What is the reason for Yom Tov ending it? And, secondarily, what can one say to a distressed mourner who asks "why is my sh'loshim over?"?

I know (h/t DoubleAA) that a Yom Tov also cancels shiva, but then after Yom Tov sh'loshim starts so the mourner still has a mourning period. (Depending on which Yom Tov, though, not necessarily a long one.) I understand that the reason for cancelling sh'loshim might be the same as that for cancelling shiva, but I'm most struck by the "early termination of mourning, period" aspect, which is why I've asked particularly about sh'loshim. I welcome further enlightenment about shiva too.

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    I suspect that the main reason is that Yom Tov has a mitzvah of simcha - joy / gladness. Shabbat does not. Please clarify the last question - "why" what? Why shloshim ends on Yom Tov or some other question? – DanF Oct 6 '16 at 14:30
  • @DanF clarified. – Monica Cellio Oct 6 '16 at 14:33
  • Suspected that. If you explained the halacha, wouldn't that automatically answer "why"? Essentially, isn't this question "redundant"? – DanF Oct 6 '16 at 14:35
  • Note it also cancels Shiva (if that's where they're up to). Is there a reason you've restricted this to Shloshim only? – Double AA Oct 6 '16 at 14:37
  • @DanF it might depend on what that explanation is; a mourner-though-not-technically probably needs to hear something comforting, not just "that's what the halacha says". But that's why I said "secondarily"; I was struck by not knowing how I would answer the person's question, which is a mix of lack of knowledge and perhaps something else. – Monica Cellio Oct 6 '16 at 14:37
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Perhaps in regard to this question we might distinguish between “noheg (customs of) avelut” and “nichum aveilim.” The halachot of Shiva are: Mourners do not: engage in work or business (unless truly irreparable loss will result, in which case there is flexibility on this after 3 days) Do not: bathe/ wash clothing or wear clean clothing/use cosmetics/have sexual relations/wear leather/sit on normal chairs (only low stools)/ do not study Torah/ go out except on Shabbat to shul/ do not participate in any entertainment/

Many mourners, however, do not associate shiva only with prohibitions, even if those prohibitions have the purpose of restricting a mourner from engaging in activities that would distract from the real need to grieve. They understand that "sitting shiva" means being fed, taken care of, and surrounded by family and friends who come to share stories and offer consolation. Yet these activities are still encouraged even if the official halachic prohibitions are not in effect.

So, does the postponement or termination of official shiva mean that there is no nichum avelim? No. The termination (of the prohibitions) of shiva mean just that, that these prohibitions are lifted. The obligation and opportunity to comfort mourners by visiting them, sitting with them, feeding them, davvenen' with them... all remain operable.

Look at this informative passage in Talmud (Sukkah 41b and elsewhere) which states: "Kakh haya minhagan shel anshei yerushalayim, adam yotze mi-beito u-lulavo be-yado, holekh le-veit ha-knesset lulavo be-yado, koreh ba-tora ve-nose kapav, maniho al gabbei ha-karka, holekh levaker holim u-lenachem aveilim lulavo be-yado" It was the custom of the people of Jerusalem that when a person left his home, he would take his lulav, he would go to the synagogue with his lulav in his hand, when he would read the Torah or pronounce the priestly blessing, he would place the lulav upon the ground, he would go to visit the sick and to comfort mourners with his lulav….

So obviously there was comforting of mourners even on Chag. "Mai evel ika ba-hag?" asks Sharira Gaon. "Af al pi she-ein noheg avelut bi-mei he-hag, ela she-chaverav holkhin etzlo, ve-yoshvin etzlo, kedei leyashev da'ato, ve-ka midamei la tana leha milta ke-mi she-ba lenahem avelim." In other words, while technically there is no formal aveilut on Chol Ha-moed, the bereaved still grieve, and friends visit to alleviate their suffering. So yes, even when there is no official “shiva,” be with them and the family, share a meal of consolation, ask them to take out photographs and share stories... offer friendship, comfort, caring.... and help them be surrounded by the people who support them.

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Yom Tov has an aspect of simcha - gladness - that Shabbat does not have. See this article for a more thorough explanation.

Several aspects:

Yom Tov has a communal outward aspect of joy. Thus, the concept of mourning is incompatible with Yom Tov. The article mentions that on Yom Tov, if someone was ritually impure, his impurity was waived so that he could go to the Temple in Jerusalem. Had that not happened, people would stay away from the dead and not bury them, because they wouldn't want to be impure. So, you can see the great importance of communal joy that Yom Tov has.

The great sage Chatam Sofer (YD 348) writes that a festival cancels the shiva because a festival annuls that phase of heavenly judgment on the soul of the deceased. These are deep kabbalistic matters that we do not fully understand

Regarding the missing "therapy" that shiva allows that has been "cancelled" by Yom Tov, the article explains that the joy of Yom Tov places someone on a higher emotional level such that the joy of Yom Tov cancels the "therapy" needed by shiva or shloshim.

See the remainder of the article as well as his reference to Book of Our Heritage that discusses some of these and mentions other aspects, as well.

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