Avelut: Bereavement


Avelut: Bereavement

Aveulut: The Hebrew word for bereavement, referring to the remainder of the initial year of mourning.

The period of time following shloshim is traditionally only observed by children of the deceased in observance of the fifth commandment to honor your parents, although many in our community adopt this practice for any significant loss. During this time more restrictions are relieved as the mourners continue to return to their regular lives. The mourners continue to attend minyanim to recite Mourner’s Kaddish and do not listen to music, attend live performances or large celebrations. This period ends, according to Ashkenazi practice, one day shy of 11 months following the burial.  Sephardi Jews typically recite Mourner’s Kaddish for 11 months, pause for a week, and then resume until the end of 12 months.

The Ashkenazi practice of truncating the year to one day short of 11 months is rooted in an ancient understanding of Jewish afterlife where the soul rests in an intermediary place for up to 12 months to become absolved of transgressions from this world. Continuing to say the Mourner’s Kaddish past 11 months would suggest that the soul of one’s parent/loved one needs the maximum time to be absolved of all transgressions, which implies that their parent/loved one was not a good person. Based on this superstition, the custom arose to recite Kaddish for parents for 11 months only (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 376:4).

The mourner might mark the end of saying Kaddish by bringing food or sponsoring a meal to share with the minyan.

It’s often around this time that the headstone of the deceased is unveiled. At an unveiling ceremony, Psalms are recited and some words of memory are shared. You don’t need a minyan for an unveiling, but if there is a minyan present, an officiant may recite the memorial prayer El Malei Rahamim, and mourners may recite Mourner’s Kaddish.