If you’ve got Jewish friends or family members who are sitting Shiva because they’ve lost a loved one in their immediate family, you may know that you are welcome to visit and make what’s called a Shiva call even if you’re not of the Jewish faith. It is considered a great honor in the Jewish tradition to have friends and family pay their respects to those sitting Shiva and to the deceased, even if they’re not of the Jewish faith.
You may feel at a loss, though, because you don’t know what to bring. It’s important to check and see whether or not it’s even appropriate to bring anything to the Shiva call. It may be, for example, that other friends and family have already arranged to provide food, so that nothing else will be necessary.
There’s also the question of whether or not what you bring should be kosher. Many, but not all, are strictly observant of Jewish kosher laws, such that certain foods or certain combinations of foods are forbidden. If you have any questions, contact the rabbi or a family member who is not sitting Shiva and ask.
What can you bring if food is welcome?
If you’ve been told that it’s appropriate for you to bring food with you when you pay a Shiva call, ask what is needed. Fulfilling a specific request is almost certainly easier than trying to figure out what is kosher, what is not, what is acceptable, what is not, what’s in abundance at the Shiva house already, what is not, and so on.
· A kosher platter, or other kosher foods
Many grocery stores (including those in the neighborhood of the Shiva house, perhaps) carry specific foods that are deemed kosher. Specific kosher platters may also be available, as may kosher baskets; these are items that are carefully assembled to contain only kosher foods. Again, if you’re uncertain, ask what you can bring, and ask at the grocery store before you buy so that you’re sure that what you’re buying is appropriate. Don’t be afraid to ask; most who observe kosher laws are generally very understanding of those who don’t understand what’s allowed and what is not; they will be very happy to help you fulfill your request.
Remember, although you may want to help and bring food to the house, the most important thing about paying a Shiva call is that you are honoring the deceased and his or her loved ones with your presence.
When you arrive, you may wish to offer your gift of food to the person who’s clearly handling the food for the Shiva sitting, if available. If not, approach someone to ask what you can do with your gift. You should not approach anyone sitting Shiva to ask them what should be done, however.
Once you have divested yourself of your food gift, approach the person who is sitting Shiva and offer your condolences, quietly. Simply saying, “I’m sorry for your loss” or something similar is enough. Then, sit quietly and let the mourner direct the conversation, if any. Your silent comfort and support is enough, and is very welcome at the Shiva house.