As Jews, our ability to poke fun at ourselves should have and must have limits. Such limits were ignored with I SHIVA, a video spoof on Shiva houses which has been E mailed to and viewed on computer screens in countless Jewish homes…and sad to say laughed at.
The gist of the video dealing with Shiva Houses is food, food, food. And because of this it’s in the poorest of taste. Shiva houses have nothing to do with food, nor should they, except for the obligatory meal prepared for the mourners upon returning from the cemetery as well as supplying any and all meals for the mourners for the duration of the Shiva that they are observing. Nowhere in any Jewish guide book on death and dying, is there any mention made as far as serving the visitors. What other American ethnic groups have done with liquor following the funeral, Jews have done with food.
Shiva houses ought to be about mourners digesting heartwarming stories about the recently deceased told to them by relatives, friends and neighbors. If it’s an anecdote that the mourners have heard before, what’s so terrible about rehashing a wonderful story? If it’s the first time that the mourners are hearing the story, then so much the better!
Ever wonder why it’s called a paying a Shiva visit, and not going for a Shiva nosh? Doesn’t this suggest that the Shiva experience is what you bring with you as far as conversation and consolation, as opposed to what you take off the platter at a Shiva house and stuff yourself with? To paraphrase the 35th President of this country: Ask not what the Shiva house can provide you; ask what you can provide the Shiva house.
Instead of L&B (Lox and bagels) Shiva houses should be about V&D (visiting and davening). Blessed is the individual who is able to distinguish between the two. The former ought to take place during down time, when the individual mourner is able participate in meaningful conversation; the latter takes place at a set time, when one comes to communicate with G-d, not the mourner, as the Shiva house quite often morphs into as mob scene. What makes it even worse, is that I have seen a religious leader here in Dallas who should have had the seichel (common sense) to know better, show up at D (davening) time and then proceed to hog both the attention as well as time of the mourner, totally oblivious to the fact that he was denying countless others the opportunity of offering the mourner a hand or a hug or both, as well as the ability to express condolences.
Having introduced two pairs of letters in the preceding paragraph, I should like to introduce two more: K&N (Kishkes-gut and Neshomeh-soul). Shiva houses should be all about the Neshomeh. That’s why there is the tall candle that burns, having been lit upon returning from the cemetery. As a matter of fact, that candle is called a Neshomeh candle, in that the soul of a person is likened to a light before G-d (Proverbs 20:27). Short of unusual circumstances, the only place for kishkes at a Shiva house is when you realize that the disgusting I SHIVA contains more than a modicum of truth. Then it ought to tear at your kishkes. After all, when L&B triumph over V&D, it is the deceased who is relegated to chopped liver status.