Sitting Shiva, The Jewish Tradition of Mourning

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Sitting Shiva is the tradition of mourning in the Jewish religion. Gathering together as a community is at the core of sitting Shiva, just as it is at the core of many Jewish traditions. The strength and support of friends, family and neighbors when sitting Shiva plays a key role in helping the bereaved through the process of grieving.

Shiva is the mourning period, traditionally observed by the parent, spouse, sibling or child of the deceased. During Shiva (“sitting Shiva”), which is traditionally a seven day period that begins immediately after the funeral, the family stays home to focus on their grief, remember their loved one and receive visitors. Although traditionally a seven day period, many families sit Shiva for a shorter period; perhaps 1, 2 or 3 days. The Shiva period is often announced at the funeral.


Sending prepared foods are customary as Jewish traditions discourages sending flowers or gifts other than food when people are sitting Shiva. In fact, Shiva begins with seudat havra’ah, “the meal of consolation,” prepared by family and neighbors. For those who are unable to make a personal visit, sending a food gift basket such as a Shiva Gift Basket or Sympathy Gift Basket with a thoughtful card is an appropriate and helpful gesture. However, it’s important to remember that people are visiting throughout and even after the Shiva period. The need for food to share continues for some time, so spacing out gifts is perfectly acceptable.”


Be sure to find out if the family sitting Shiva keeps kosher so you can send an appropriate food gift basket. And when you are thinking of what to write, a simple message when people are sitting Shiva is best. Consider a message such as “With our heartfelt sympathy,” or “We are so sorry for your loss. You are in our thoughts,” or the most traditional, “May G-d comfort you among all mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”


For many, consoling the bereaved that are sitting Shiva can be difficult and uncomfortable. But Jewish customs are quite clear in describing proper etiquette and that helps alleviate awkward feelings. Generally, be a good listener and be as helpful as possible when people are sitting Shiva.
Soon after arriving, visitors should approach the mourners and sit quietly with them, possibly offering a hug or handshake, but letting the mourner begin the conversation. They may not feel like talking at all, and sitting in silence is perfectly acceptable. Or, the visitor can simply say, “I’m sorry,” and that can be enough. Just being there says it all-words are not always necessary when visiting those sitting Shiva.


It helps to remember that Shiva occurs during the most intense days of mourning. Those who have just lost a loved one will experience a range of powerful emotions, and that is an important part of the healing process. This is the perfect time to share stories, photos and cherished memories of the deceased. And if you don’t know what to say, remain silent.


If there is a chance to be helpful, make an offer, or just complete the task, when appropriate. Run errands, pick-up at the airport, host someone coming in from out of town, cook or clean-up, or take care of children. Whatever can be done to remove daily chores from those sitting Shiva becomes an immense help. Shiva calls should be thought of as an act of kindness, not as a burden. The visit can be an hour or less to avoid tiring the family. Different families will observe Shiva in different manners. It is traditional for mourners to have a tear in their clothing to symbolize their loss, they may sit on low stools or even on the floor to show the depth of their sadness, and some show a traditional disregard for vanity and personal comfort by maintaining only the most minimal standards of personal care, dressing simply and covering mirrors. Usually a 24-hour candle burns in memory of the deceased. In some homes, mourners will recite Kaddish up to three times a day with a minyan, which is a group of 10 Jewish adults. At times it is difficult to gather a minyan, so visitors who can participate are especially appreciated.


Shiva Gift Giving – Frequently Asked Questions

Sending a sympathy or shiva gift is certainly one of life’s most difficult tasks. What makes it difficult is our own unease with death combined with a feeling of helplessness—“how can I truly help?” This is particularly so when the death is a tragedy. But as we all know death and even tragedy is part of life.

Following are some of the most commonly asked questions by both Jews and non Jews alike, who are attempting to console those in mourning with a special gift.

What Is Shiva?

Shiva is the 7 day Jewish mourning period. During shiva, friends and family visit those who are mourning as an act of support and friendship. Visitors, along with the mourners sit, nosh (eat) and through conversation, celebrate the life that has ended.

When Is Shiva?

A shiva schedule is typically announced at the funeral or obituary. Although shiva is 7 days, many mourners shorten the period. Shiva is never on Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. The first Shiva typically begins after the funeral, which is often followed by the burial. Funerals often start between 11am – 2pm and are around an hour. The burial is on average, another 2-3 hours depending on the distance of the cemetery from the funeral (often in Synagogue or Funeral Home). First shiva can begin anywhere from 4:30pm to 7pm and doesn’t usually last past 9 or so.

I am going to the shiva, to make a shiva call, what should I expect?

Shiva is a sad occasion but you should not feel nervous or uncomfortable. Just being there is enough; you need not worry about saying the “right” thing. If not sure what to say or how to act, it’s best to say little. However, you can never go wrong by being supportive and helpful: “Anyone need a drink?” “Can I help clean up?” “How are you feeling?”

What should I bring to shiva?

Bring food that can easily be served and shared. Avoid food that requires work on the part of the mourners. Kosher cookies, cakes, candies, nuts are all welcome at shiva as long as they are crowd pleasers and easy to serve.

I am far away and can’t go to shiva, what should I do?

Send a card or shiva gift basket. Never send flowers! Shiva gifts should be foods that are well liked by many (don’t forget young kids, if they are part of the mourning family) and easy to serve. Our 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket.

When should the gift arrive?

Ideally, the earliest your gift should arrive is the first day of shiva, which is usually the day of the funeral and burial. Shiva gifts are welcome anytime during the shiva period and even beyond (see next question).

What if I have missed the official shiva period, should I still send a gift?

Although the official shiva period is over, the family will still be receiving visitors and food will be needed to feed them. Sending a gift at this time is completely acceptable and shows your care.

How Do I Choose A Gift?

Your choice should be based on your allowable budget (don’t forget shipping), any personal preferences you may have and/or any dietary restrictions of the shiva family that you are aware of.

Does My Shiva Gift Need to be Kosher?

Sending a kosher gift is a recommended. Even if the mourners are not kosher observant, it is quite possible that some of the attendees are. Shiva is not a time for inconvenience or difficult moments.

What Should the Gift Message Say?

For most of us, this is perhaps the hardest part of sending a sympathy or shiva gift. Often, we try to convey too much into the message. Keeping your message simple is key. Following are some of our most frequently used gift messages. Feel free to use as is or with your own personal touch. Don’t forget to sign your name!

-With heartfelt sympathy

-Our thoughts are prayers are with you during this difficult time

-We are so sorry for your loss and send our warmest condolences to you and your family

-May [name of deceased] be a blessing to all who knew him/her

-May G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem

Where should the shiva gift be sent?

Shiva usually takes place at the home of a family member. This is where the shiva gift should be sent.

How should I address the gift—to my friend? To the entire family?

While you may have a specific friend or colleague in mourning, it is a nice gesture to address the gift to the entire family. For example, instead of Ms. Suzie Miller, The Miller Family.

If you are sending a gift to someone who is staying with friends or family, you can address it as follows: The Miller Family, c/o The XYZ Family.

Information used with the permission of Jane Moritz from the Challah Connection.

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Our 8 Favorite Hanukkah Crafts

Let’s get one thing clear: WE LOVE TO DECORATE FOR HANUKKAH! It is so fun to go ALL out on the holidays. If you like DIY projects, this post is definitely for you. Now, get ready to get festive and to have fun with your family. Click on the pictures of the Hanukkah craft for their instructions.

Now tell us–which of the Hanukkah crafts will you attempt?

1. Toilet Paper Roll Menorah

This is such a fun craft to do and a safe and fire free way for your children to have their own “menorah”.

Recycled Menorah, hanukkah crafts, kids diy, traditions gifts

 2.  Hand Print Menorah

Not only a fun project that any kid would love to do–but a great keepsake!. This would make a wonderful gift!

hanukkah crafts, kids diy, traditions gifts

3. Make Your Own Menorah

All you need is stock paper. These would look so festive at a Hanukkah dinner party!

diy, menorah, haukkah

4. The Perfect Paper Star of David

Grab a pair of scissors and go to town. Hang from the ceiling or on garland for the perfect touch of Hanukkah flair.

5. Holiday Star Garland

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6. Hanukkah Bath Stickers  

This is genius.  Check out these unique Hanukkah bath stickers! These would make really neat gifts, as well.

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7. Upcycled Hanukkah Menorah

Follow these easy directions for a DIY menorah that lights up any room (fire not needed!)

DIY Upcycled Chanukah Menorah (for hanukkah)

8.  Money Origami Star

Who doesn’t love getting cash as a gift? Spice up the gelt you give with this fun origami star made of bills.

money origami, hanukkah, gift ideas

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Mensch on a Bench: From Kickstarter to Shark Tank

mensch_Blog

Your Friends at Traditions are excited to announce that on Dec 12th Shark Tank will feature Mensch on a Bench. A beloved toy in Jewish homes around the world.

In 2013 a Kickstarter was created  based on the wishes of Neal Hoffman’s young child. During Hanukkah of 2013-just one year after its successful Kickstarter–the toy sold out in just ten days. Fast forwarding to present day– what was once an idea is now one of the must have gifts of the holiday season.

Meet Neal Hoffman, once a marketing manager, now successful entrepreneur.  Recently quitting his full time job in order to ‘Mensch full time,’ telling Fox News that he wouldn’t even sell his company for ten million dollars. Perhaps, to Neal, living the American dream is priceless. With a brand like his–we certainly don’t blame him! He is certainly on his way to establishing his brand into corporate America.

On December 12th, Shark Tank will air the episode that features Hoffman’s brainchild, ‘Mensch on a Bench’. Shark Tank seems like just a stop on the corporate ladder he is steadily climbing. Surely, with the exposure and most-likely-a deal on Shark Tank this is just the first of many brand achievements. Our hearts are full of pride to see this family run business skyrocketing.  Shark Tank is the beginning of a massive branding plan that Neal has for the Mensch. Next year consumers can expect plenty of Mensch themed Hanukkah items: think candy, dreidels, gift wrap and more. Neal is also getting ready for the release of the AfikoMensch–the Passover edition of Mensch on a Bench.

A few days after the original idea of the Mensch was born, Neal began to write a story all about the Mensch. His brain was full of ideas–he already saw the adventures and scenarios that the Mensch would get himself into. He was inspired. He needed to write…and that is exactly what he did. If toys didn’t work out for him–he would have been interested in having a career in the comic book world! Soon after the book was written it was read to his son. His son loved it and the rest is history.

The inspiration didn’t stop. Hoffman found himself constantly chatting about it and planning. His wife finally urged him to trademark it and he did so just in the nick of time because a few days later someone else would try to trademark the same thing. With some hope, his family savings and help from Kickstarter Neal’s idea became a reality and he sold over 1,000 units in just ten hours.

Something that makes Hoffman’s brand AMAZING is the connection that he has with his fans on social media and blogs. Like his Facebook page here—> http://goo.gl/gu1Giu . He is very interactive, as are his followers. Neal does not have a lot of time to focus on content creation because of his busy schedule–however it is something he does not need to worry about as over 12,000 people have sent their pictures and name ideas to Neal and his page.

The Mensch on the Bench comes with eight rules.

rules

These rules have allowed families to create lifelong traditions and memories and simultaneously the Mensch is helping to teach morals such as good behavior and giving to others. Our favorite rule is rule number seven. The rule says to not open presents for one night of your choice during Hanukkah. Instead of opening presents kids have to give a gift to someone who is in need. With these rules, children all over the world are being introduced to what the word Mensch means and how to live like one. This is a priceless lesson that is learned through making Hanukkah memories with your family and having fun. No wonder it’s been an instant hit.

Hoffman’s story is compelling and inspiring–with the influence that he has in Jewish homes right now he has successfully encouraged boys and girls all over the world to give gifts instead of receiving one for one night of Hanukkah. Via his family’s brand; Neal is a real modern day Mensch.

Traditions is so happy to be carrying Mensch on a Bench. We were so excited that we even got our own office Mensch–the newest addition to our Hanukkah plush family. Traditions is a proud supporter of Neal and his brand; after all,  family founded small businesses need to stick together..

Meet Moshe,our office Mensch. He made instant friends with Mr. Maccabee. Instantly after meeting they had a crazy guys night playing dreidel.
coffee
We even found them shmoozing over coffee this morning!

Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to see what Moshe will be up to next.

Get your own Bench on a Mensch with FREE Hanukkah gifts. Click — >http://goo.gl/s3q2Ai

Get your Maccabee on a Mantel. Click —> http://goo.gl/q2WByG

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8 Hanukkah Kitchen Supplies That We Love

During this Hanukkah, you can find us in the kitchen. We love latkes, sufganiyot, brisket and more!! We have taken the time to list eight of our favorite Hanukkah kitchen supplies. Whether you are hosting a party or cooking for a small family gathering–we have all you need to make your kitchen and table festive for the holiday!

1. Keep Calm and Eat Latkes Plate : Keep calm and buy our latke plate!! Perfect for a fun  party or a hostess gift.

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2. Dreidel Salt and Pepper Shakers : The perfect final touch to your  table.

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3. Reusable Dreidel Ice Cubes : Keep your drinks ice cold while the flames burn hot with these fun reusable ice cubes.

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4. Hanukkah Paper Tableware : No one likes to do dishes–especially after a big meal. Have one less thing on your to do list with this  tableware set made of paper.

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5. Complete Hanukkah Cupcake Decorating Set: Can you say Cupcake Decorating party??? At your gathering have icing, sprinkles and this set–a sweet creative treat!

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6. Nylon Latke Server : Latkes are a holiday favorite. Serve this crowd favorite in style.

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7. Round Hanukkah Serving Plate : Colorful and festive–make your table pop with this eye catching  plate.

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8. 2 Piece Hanukkah Towel Set : There will always be a cleanup after a successful evening. Keep the spirit going and get festive while you clean! A great gift for your host or mom.

towels, hanukkah, clean, gifts

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8 Amazing DIY Menorahs

Menorahs are often the center of attention during a Hanukkah gathering or party so it’s no wonder people love to put so much thought and  time into their choice of menorah. There are so many menorahs in the world that are crazy, fun, chic or contemporary. Here at Traditions we prefer the unusual and quirky ones! We searched the internet up and down and found 8 menorahs that people from all over have made. 

Click on the pictures to get the instructions so you can DIY, too!

1. Used Pez-norah Dispenser Menorah : This is as close to DIY menorah perfection as you can get. The potential for awesome themed Pez-norahs are endless! This would be such a fun Hanukkah gift.

Use Pez dispensers:
Pez-norah by Lifehacker

2. Spray Painted  Menorah : These white and matte finished bottles make us wish it snowed in Florida. We are loving this winter inspired menorah.

Spray Painted Glass Bottles
Spray Painted Glass Bottles by Better Homes and Gardens

3. Spray Paint Pasta-norah : Sauce not included!  Use these noodles and paint to create a delicious looking pasta-norah.

Or spray-paint pasta:
Pasta Menorah by the MV Times

4. Modular Menorah: Inspired by the mod look of the 60s!

Modern Modular Menorah
The Modernist Menorah by JustinaBlakeney.com

5. Industrial Pipe Menorah : A bold  and fun Hanukkah statement to make. The perfect menorah for a handyman or a construction industrialist.

pipe menorah
Industrial Menorah by ManMadeDiy.com

6. Building Block Menorah : This is a fun Hanukkah craft to make for the kid or kid at heart in your life. Personalize it to any name or word you want. Have fun!

 

Use building blocks:
Building Blocks Menorah by CreativeJewishMom.com

 7.  Pool Noodle Menorah : If you are lucky like us and you can spend Hanukkah in warm weather–this may be a great decoration for the outside of your home.

Pool Noodles Menorah
Pool Noodles by www.BibleBeltBalabusta.com

8. Branch Menorah : This menorah will immediately bring a rustic and whimsical touch to any Hanukkah table.

Branch Menorah Martha Stewart
Branch Menorah by Martha Stewart
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FIND HANUKKAH HARRY!

Can you help us find Hanukkah Harry? We have been looking all over the place for this crazy guy!

For Hanukkah we wanted to have some fun with you and do a treasure hunt of sorts. You will get one clue–one day at a time–for eight days! You can use these eight clues to help you find Hanukkah Harry and receive a 10% off coupon and an entry to for a chance to win a $25 gift card for you to spend in our store. To enter into our drawing for the $25 gift card, simply email us at contest@traditionsjewishgifts.com with Harry’s code.

Find the rules to our game below.

HAVE FUN AND HAPPY HANUKKAH FROM TRADITIONS!

Click the picture below to go to our Facebook page.

Find Hanukkah Harry

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HOLIDAY MADNESS IS HERE!

We are excited to announce our Holiday Madness sales! Save on shipping, candles, dreidels and more!

 These codes expire on November 25th at midnight. Only one code per order, please!

Holiday Madness is Here

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Gratefulness.

Thanksgiving is almost here and the holiday has us talking about gratefulness. We talked about the things that we are grateful for this season–scroll down to see what the staff of TraditionsJewishGifts.com is grateful for.

Gratitude, Enough, Traditions Jewish Gifts staff

Wendy: My family!

Andi: I am most grateful for the fact that I have such a great family. I am also very grateful for my job at Traditions.

Roy: My health, my sound mind, my wife and grand-kids.

Greg: My friends and family.

Richard: I am grateful that I work with one great bunch of people.

Matt: My friends, family, food and drink.

Nina: I am grateful for my kids, job and consistency.

What are you grateful for? 

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Festive Hanukkah Nails

Get ready to illuminate any room you go into during the Festival of Lights with these Midrash Manicures festive Hanukkah nail decals. Hanukkah lasts eight days and nights long and one of our favorite ways to commemorate our favorite holiday is to light up our fingertips with some festive Hanukkah nails. When done correctly, these nails can last up to TEN DAYS–your very own Hanukkah miracle!

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Festive Hanukkah nail decals by Midrash Manicures

To create your own festive Haukkah nails look you will need:

A solid base coat and solid color coat.
Midrash Manicure’s Hanukkah Nail Decals (Buy them HERE!)
A glossy top/bottom coat
Toothpick or pair of tweezers (optional)

The first step is to prep your nails! Apply a bottom coat on your nails to create a protective barrier. Next you need to apply the base coat of your choice. We like blue, white or a matte silver.

 After you apply your base coat, you need to let it dry. After your polish dries you may then apply your festive Hanukkah nail decals to the center of your nail beds. Simply peel the decals off and with a light hand press the sticky side down. To make sure its securely on, an extra step you can take is to use a toothpick or tweezers and push down on the decal. This will secure your decals and ensure accurate placement. This step is completely optional as the decals can also be applied with just your fingers.

Festive Hanukkah nails, Midrash Manicures, nails, cute, holidays, DIY, fun
Festive Hanukkah nails in white with decals by Midrash Manicures

Your almost done! Now all that’s left to do is apply your top coat and let dry.

Festive Hanukkah nails, Midrash Manicures, nails, cute, holidays, DIY, fun
Festive Hanukkah nails  in blue with decals by Midrash Manicures

Now your festive Hanukkah nails are complete! May you shine bright this holiday season.


Tradition’s would like to announce that we are going to have a Hanukkah nail contest! Paint the most festive Hanukkah nails you can and post it with the hash-tag #HeyTraditions so that we can see your entry. You do NOT need to use the Hanukkah decals if you don’t want to–just be as creative as you can!  The best entry will win their very own set of Midrash Manicures nail decals. You can pick between their High Holidays Decals or Hanukkah Decals. Contest ends December 8th!

Good luck and have fun doing your festive Hanukkah nails!

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