Halacha, Minhag, and Bereaved Families


This morning I received a call from a bereaved parent.  Following the death of his infant child, he read ITIM’s Report on Burial and Mourning, submitted to the Knesset last week, and written about in today’s Jerusalem Post. 

There is very little halacha connected with mourning rites for stillborns or children who die before reaching 30 days.  Jewish tradition needs to balance the needs of the family to move beyond its tragedy , on one side, and the need to allow the family to mourn on the other.  

It’s true. There is no requirement for shiva, or shloshim, or kaddish.  And it’s also true that families can adopt some or all o these customs. Maybe it’s time we come up with more concrete ways of allowing families to ritualize their loss. By institutionalizing rites, we might be able to help guide families better in their darkest hours.