When you think of funerals, many people automatically think of flowers. However, this imagery does not really apply to a traditional Jewish funeral. So what should you bring to a Jewish family instead of funeral flowers?
A Home-Cooked Meal
In Judaism, the 7 days after burial is known as “shiva.” During shiva, the family of the deceased must focus on mourning their loved one, and so they are forbidden from doing their daily chores, including cooking. This means the grieving family must rely on family and friends to provide their meals.
With this in mind, bringing over a home-cooked meal is a meaningful way to show your sympathy. The meal does not have to be anything fancy. Simply bring over whatever dish you feel comfortable making that will serve a large amount of people. If you will be attending Shabbat with the mourning family, consider making Challah, chicken soup, or rugelach. Giving the gift of food will express your sympathy, provide a practical gift, and keep your friends full and happy.
In most Jewish traditions, there is a burning candle that honors a special event. Jewish funerals are no different. During Shiva, it is customary to burn a candle honor of the deceased all 7 days. It is also traditional to light a “Yahrzeit” candle on the one-year anniversary of the loved one’s passing. This makes giving a memorial candle right after the funeral or one year after the funeral an especially impactful gift to mourners. If you would like to go the extra mile, make your own candle so that you can personalize the candle with your favorite colors, scents, and containers. If you want something a little bit more out-of-the-box, give the gift of paper lanterns, which will fulfill the act of lighting a memorial candle, while also create a beautiful and moving tribute to your loved one.
Donation to Charity
There is no better way to honor a loved one than performing a Mitzvah in their memory. Many families will designate a charity to donate to “in lieu of gifts.” However, if the family did not specify a charity, simply ask the family what their loved one’s favorite charity was or what causes they were most passionate about. Keep in mind, that sometimes the best place to donate might be the mourning family. If you know the family is in a sensitive financial situation, politely ask them if you can donate to a fund to help cover some of their funeral expenses.