Bereavement in Judaism is often called "Avelut" or in singular form: "Avel". (Hebrew: אֲבֵלוּת).

What does this word literally mean? WHere does it come from?

1 Answer 1


Aveilut comes from the singular word of avail (אָבֵל) meaning literally mourner, and consequently mourning.

Famously used in the opening word of Eichah 1:4, דרכי ציון אבילות, Zion’s roads are in mourning.

Based on the open-ended nature of the question, I’ll give a couple examples sourcing the concept.

Ber. 37:34. Jacob mourns his son.

וַיִּקְרַע יַעֲקֹב שִׂמְלֹתָיו וַיָּשֶׂם שַׂק בְּמָתְנָיו וַיִּתְאַבֵּל עַל בְּנוֹ יָמִים רַבִּים

It as well appears in idiom about Haman (Est. 6:12), not that he was a mourner, but that he was in a disheveled state.

וַיָּשָׁב מָרְדְּכַי אֶל-שַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, וְהָמָן נִדְחַף אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ אָבֵל וַחֲפוּי רֹאשׁ

Or in Mishnah, MK 2:2

וְכֵן מִי שֶׁהָיָה יֵינוֹ בְּתוֹךְ הַבּוֹר וְאֵרְעוֹ אֵבֶל אוֹ אֹנֶס, אוֹ שֶׁהִטְעוּהוּ פוֹעֲלִים, זוֹלֵף וְגוֹמֵר וְגָף כְּדַרְכּוֹ, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי יוֹסֵי. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, עוֹשֶׂה לוֹ לִמּוּדִים, בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁלֹּא יַחְמִיץ:


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