Academy for Jewish Religion, California - Clergy & Alumni Association


Position: Rabbi


  • Baby Naming Ceremonies
  • Bereavement Counseling
  • Chevra Kaddisha/Post-Death Ritual
  • Conversion Classes
  • Corporate Chaplaincy
  • Dedications & New Home Blessings
  • Funerals, Memorial Services & Unveilings
  • Hospital Chaplaincy
  • Spiritual Counseling/Spiritual Direction
  • Teaching/Education
  • Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim
  • Weddings


Thesis Title:
Psychological Benefits of Traditional Jewish Mourning Practices (2016)

Active grieving at the time of death mitigates the long-term negative effects of the loss. Psychological literature supports the therapeutic efficacy of traditional Jewish mourning practices and laws. This thesis examines four halachic stages of mourning as compared to those recognized by the modern psychological community.

They are aninut אנינות, the time between hearing of the death and burial; avelut אבלות –  beginning immediately after the burial. Shiva שבע  – the first seven days of avelut which and the most intensive days of the mourning period. The sheloshim שלושים – a time used to help the Jewish mourner begin the process of reintegrating back into daily life. The twelve-month period (Shnat ha-avelut האבלות שנת or חודש ב״י) of extended mourning for a parent, which includes the sheloshim, concludes the cycle of mourning.

The thesis shows that Jewish mourners who follow halachic mourning protocols are supported by their community, thus enabling them to begin their grief work. Traditional Judaism does not marginalize its mourners.

Modern psychology has learned what traditional Judaism has known for centuries: when mourners meet their grief head on, it mitigates the long-term pain of their loss.

Halacha required mourners to physically experience their loss by rending their clothing upon hearing the news of a death, tending to the body of the deceased, escorting the deceased to graveside, burying them with shovels that they handle themselves and eulogizing them both at the funeral service and then during the week of shiva. Halacha also requires mourners to recite Kaddish Yatom, the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead, as well as erect a tombstone for them. All of these physical acts help the mourner stay focused on their loss. The resulting psychological benefit of that anchoring is a framework from which the mourner can begin and end their mourning period.

Email: sandyrosenstein55@gmail.com