Ask Our Rabbis – May 7th, 2022

Q: Why are mirrors covered in a house of mourning / shiva?

A: There are several suggested reasons for this custom, most perfectly rational and practical, while some more Kabbalistic.

  1. Covering Mirrors is a way to remind us that the observation of shiva is not about ourselves but rather a time to concentrate on the deceased. The concept of vanity is shunned as this is considered a time of self-reflection, to concentrate on one’s inner self and not outward appearances.
  2. Prayers are normally held in a house of mourning, and we may not pray in front of a mirror. This is both because of the distraction and because it looks like the person is praying to himself.
  3. There was a custom in Talmudic times to overturn the beds in a house of mourning. One reason given for this was to avoid the temptation for marital relations during the week of shiva, which are forbidden. This is not in practice today, but possibly as an alternative, the mirrors are covered to lessen the desire for relations.
  4. According to the Zohar, various images come to visit a home during a time of loss. Thus, the
  5. mirrors are covered.

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