PART TWO: SHIVA VISITS
As long as I’m being the preachy Jew this week, I’ll spout off about what constitutes an appropriate local shiva visit. Unless the bereaved family asks you to stay for an extended time to visit with them or lend support, here’s the protocol: 1) Go. 2) Pay your respects. And here comes the controversial part: 3)LEAVE! That’s right—get your charming arse off the premises. It’s not the time for you to socialize with other shiva visitors. It’s not the time to monopolize the mourners, unless, of course, you find you’re one of only a very few there and the family invites you to sit with them. If the family is standing and receiving a long line of visitors, have the courtesy to be sincere and brief. And then am-scray! They will appreciate a personal visit much more two weeks or a month from now, when they aren’t running on fumes and there aren’t 53 more people in line behind you.
We paid a condolence call this week while we were up in RI to the family of a genuine patriarch in the community who left a beautiful legacy when he died at age 87. The line just to get into the house went down the front walk and around the corner. And it didn’t move for 20 minutes. When we finally got in the door, the line wound through a large foyer around to the family, who was standing in the rear corner of the living room. But the foyer itself looked like a cocktail party scene from a movie. There was no food or drink, but it wouldn’t have looked a hair out of place to have a cater waiter entering with a platter of glasses filled with bubbly. Because we were stuck in the foyer for 20 minutes while the line jammed up, we could see that this absurd, social crowd had already paid their respects to the family—and were now visiting with each other and others waiting in line—before exiting. We couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of two local women—“best friends,” they announced to all within earshot—who hadn’t seen each other in TWO WHOLE WEEKS! They planned a yoga date and lunch right then and there, and ended with the universal departing command of Jewish women, “Cawwwwl me!” I mean, I can see if you run into someone from out of town who you haven’t seen in a million years, but please. Have some respect. Don’t forget where you are and why you’re there. The family will appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
And with that, I shall step off my Jewish soapbox for a while!