Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mourning customs in Bershad

Brukhe Feldman recalls an interesting custom associated with mourning the dead. Brukhe was born in 1938 in Bershad, Ukraine. She discusses the ritual of shive (shivah), a period of seven days in which a mourner is prohibited from washing, wearing shoes, studying Torah, or having marital relations. The mourner typically sits on the floor or on low stools during this time. Brukhe remembers that in her community, shivah was observed for eight days, which was relatively common in Eastern Europe, rather than the more universal seven days (shivah means seven in Hebrew).

In this clip, recorded in Bershad in 2008, Brukhe discusses a custom associated with the shoes of the person who has passed away. Any shoes that the deceased had worn are burned, while new shoes that were in his or her possession may be given away. Brukhe remembers hearing that the reason for burning the shoes is to avoid "stepping" on the corpse by stepping into his or her shoes.

--Asya Vaisman

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