Beth Abraham Orthodox Synagogue

Today's Date

17 Tammuz 5784

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Tearing the Garments

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  1. Upon the passing of a close relative: a parent, child, brother, sister or spouse, the mourners are required to tear their garments.
  2. The garments are torn:
    1. while standing
    2. beginning near the neck and torn downward through the rim of the garment (It is customary to have someone else begin the tear and then the mourner finishes the tear by hand.)
  3. Torah law prescribes the limits and procedures for mourning. One may not do more or less than what the law requires. One may not tear his hair or flesh as a sign of mourning. "You are children of Hashem, do not cut your flesh on account of death." (Devarim 14) The Seforno explains that a Jew should realize that Hashem is our closest relative, and He is always with us. We may not, therefore, overreact with pain over the loss of a relative, for our closest relative, our dear Father in Heaven is always present.
  4. The mourner may change to old garments before performing the mitzvah of tearing his garments.
  5. The "tearing" may not be done on Shabbos or Yom Tov.
  6. for parents, the children tear:
    1. clothing that is commonly worn (shirt, dress, blouse, except for undershirts, coat or tzitzis. Women are to cover over the tear or pin it up or even stitch it up, soas not to expose themselves.)
    2. on the left side towards the heart
    3. by hand
    4. in public
    5. an obvious tear on the garments all the way down to the heart
    6. If he changes clothes during the seven-day mourning period, he must also tear those clothes. It is improper to merely tear a ribbon or to wear a black ribbon instead of tearing one's garment.)
  7. For other relatives (children, brothers, sisters or spouse):
    1. the upper garment is torn for about 4 inches
    2. on the right side
    3. a hidden tear (under the coat) is sufficient
    4. a knife or scissors may be used (for the entire tear)
    5. a. If he changes clothes he does not have to tear them.
  8. When a righteous person passes away, even non-relatives are obligated to cry and mourn for them.
  9. It is customary to fulfill the mitzvah of "tearing" the clothes after the eulogies, or at the cemetery after the burial of the deceased. The blessing "the truthful judge" is said before the "tearing."
  10. 1. It is proper for men to assist men and for women to help women mourners tear their garments.
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