The Ritual of Reciting Psalms at Shiva

A shiva call gives you an opportunity to express your sorrow to your close friend or loved one who has passed. Depending on what time of day you visit, you may attend the reciting of psalms. Have you considered the reasoning behind this Jewish funeral tradition?

Psalms, in general, are sacred songs or hymns that help us reflect on our personal relationship with G-d. There are many specific psalms that provide comfort that are used during this time of mourning.

Perhaps the most recognized psalm, Psalm 49, is recited after every morning and evening service in the shiva house of mourning.  

Perhaps the biggest reason for the ritual of Psalms is to honor the deceased. Additionally, having a daily service shows respect and support for the bereaved.


Psalms that Comfort

Below we’ve listed a few psalms that provide comfort and meaning, especially for those in mourning. 

Psalm 16
Protect me, Eternal One, for I seek refuge in You.
I say to G-d: “You are Adonai, there is none beyond You.”
Adonai is my allotted share and portion.
I bless Adonai who has guided me; my conscience admonishes me at night.
I am ever mindful of the Divine Presence who is at my right hand; I shall never be shaken.
So my heart rejoices; my whole being exults, and my body rests secure.


Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Psalm 90
O G-d, You have been our refuge in every generation.
Before the mountains came into being, before You brought forth the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity You are G-d.
You return us to dust; Your decree: “Return, you mortals!”
For in Your sight a thousand years are as yesterday when it has passed, as a watch n the night.
You engulf us in sleep; we are like grass that renews itself; at daybreak it flourishes anew; at dusk it withers and dries up. The span of our life is threescore years and ten, or, given strength, fourscore years; But the best of those years have trouble and sorrow.
They pass by speedily, and we are in darkness.
Teach us, therefore, so to number our days that we may attain a heart of wisdom, Turn to us, O G-d!
Show mercy to Your servants.
Satisfy us at daybreak wit Your steadfast love That we may sing for joy all our days.
Let Your deeds be seen by Your servants, Your glory by their children.
May Your favor, O G-d, be upon us.
Establish the work of our hands that it may long endure.


Psalm 103:13-17
As a father has compassion for his children Adonai has compassion for those who show reverence.
G-d knows how we are fashioned, G-d remembers that we are dust.
The days of mortals are like grass; We flourish as the flowers of the field.
A wind passes over them and they are not more; And no one can recognize where they grew.
But adonai’s compassion is everlasting.
G-d’s kindness to children’s children, To all the reverent ones, Endures, age after age, unchanging.



Start Preplanning Today

As you know, Judaism has been shaped by thousands of years of study of the Law and traditions; and its practices can differ based on culture, location, and how strictly you adhere to these laws. Regardless of how you identify, Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, there are things to consider when planning for your funeral and burial. Even choosing your preferred psalms for shiva is a step in planning ahead for your Jewish funeral and unveiling.

Confronting death and funerals isn’t easy, but making plans in advance will greatly benefit your loved ones. From the simpler details, like psalm preferences, to more complex obligations and logistical considerations, planning a Jewish funeral in advance reduces the burden that otherwise would fall on your family. 

Would you like to speak with a trusted member of our team? 

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Deanna Clingerman


Deanna Clingerman, MSSA, LSW is an aspiring funeral director/embalmer with a lifelong interest in funeral service. She holds degrees in Psychology and Sociology from Youngstown State University and Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University. After a rewarding career in Social Work, she attended Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science to realize her dream of becoming an embalmer and funeral director. She has worked in the Akron-Canton area for most of her funeral service career. She is the location manager and a funeral director for Cleveland Jewish Funerals.