Previously, we posted about attending a shiva with guidelines from Rabbi Helfand of Peninsula Sinai. Rabbi Helfand offers additional information about the ritual of Sh'mira, or Shimera, which means guard or watch. It is the Jewish practice of never leaving a body alone; rather we sit with the deceased until they are buried. Here is what Rabbi Helfand teaches:
One of the most important mitzvot that we can perform as an act of k'vod ha-met, giving honor and dignity to the deceased, is the mitzvah of sh'mira, sitting with the deceased before burial. Since the funeral will not take place until such and such a time Jews from the community take a one or two hour shift to sit with the body of the deceased.
What do you do during sh'mira?
Traditionally, we use this time to recite Psalms, other prayers or just sit quietly as a way of bringing God's presence and our own into the sacred space and asking God to watch over and protect the deceased person. This is also a beautiful way to make sure that this person is never alone between when she/he died and the funeral. Please refrain from using electronics during this time. Most importantly, sh’mira is a time where we try to have kavannah, intentionality for the sacred act that we are performing, be it praying, reflecting on the person’s life, or being present in silence.