Shiva and Work

Shiva usually means an entire week off work.


Reprinted with permission from


Traditionally, Judaism prohibits mourners from working during shiva. In fact, one of Judaism’s oldest laws states that in times of great happiness and great sorrow, an individual must cease working in order to concentrate on his or her emotional journey. 

In accordance with this custom, mourners observing shiva do not leave the house to go to their workplace or carry out any work-related tasks during the week-long period. Normally they resume their work after the week of mourning has ended. 

Some Tips for Mourners

If you recently suffered a loss, alerting co-workers and supervisors of the death of your family member or close friend may seem like a trivial task. However, these notifications are important to keep co-workers and supervisors apprised of your plans to observe shiva and/or other mourning customs. In addition, these notifications allow co-workers to take over key responsibilities during your absence and provide valuable updates upon your return.

This may also be an opportune time to discuss your company’s bereavement policy with a supervisor or human resources representative. Although a bereavement policy serves as a guide for employers, each situation is unique. Depending on your individual mourning customs, exceptions to the stated policy may occasionally be made.  

Many companies offer employees paid time off, personal days, or other considerations in the event of a close personal loss. If you have questions about your company’s bereavement policy, it is best to speak with a supervisor or someone in the human resources department. 

Some Tips for Colleagues

If a Jewish colleague dies, it is appropriate for a supervisor or senior company representative to attend the funeral service and make a shiva call. Doing so sends a message to the mourning family about the company’s appreciation for the deceased’s work and his or her contribution to the business. Moreover, the company may wish to make a charitable donation in the deceased’s name and/or send a condolence item, such as a fruit basket or meat platter, to the shiva house on behalf of the company. 

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